Mothers and fathers of children with cancer: loss of control during treatment and posttraumatic stress at later follow-up

Authors

  • Annika Lindahl Norberg,

    Corresponding author
    • Department of Woman and Child Health, Childhood Cancer Research Unit, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden
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  • Krister K. Boman


Correspondence to: Childhood Cancer Research Unit, Astrid Lindgren Children's Hospital Q6:05, SE-171 76 Stockholm, Sweden. E-mail: annika.lindahl.norberg@ki.se

Abstract

Background

A child's cancer can lead to changes in parental role functioning, including loss of control. We studied the extent to which parental perceived loss of control during a child's cancer treatment predicted posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) after completion of treatment.

Method and participants

The sample of this longitudinal study included 62 parents (36 mothers and 26 fathers) of children currently in treatment for malignant disease (T1) and after completion of treatment (T2). Loss of control was assessed at T1 using a self-report measure, that is the loss of control module of the Parental Psychosocial Distress-Cancer questionnaire. PTSS were assessed at T2 using the Impact of Event Scale-Revised. Main analyses were carried out for mothers and fathers separately.

Results

The majority of the parents, 55% (n = 34), reported loss of control on more than half of the assessed domains. Only 5% (n = 3) reported no loss of control whatsoever. At T2, some degree of PTSS was reported by 89% (n = 55). These outcomes were similar for mothers and fathers. Loss of control at T1 predicted stronger PTSS at T2 primarily among mothers.

Conclusion

The experience of loss of control during cancer treatment is a salient risk factor for later PTSS in mothers. The situational threat to the regular parental role is discussed as an explanation to this observation. Interventions should address informational needs, parent participation in care, and professional support to maintain a sense of control and functioning in their parental role. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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