Supportive groups for siblings of pediatric oncology patients: impact on anxiety

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Abstract

Childhood cancer can have a substantial emotional impact on the siblings of the sick child. In order to help these siblings adjust to the illness, supportive groups were started in 1994 at our medical center. The program is based on a model of psychosocial support; the aim of the group is to enhance control strategies and, thus, to reduce anxiety. It consists of five sessions and is offered to siblings aged 7–18. The study objective is to evaluate the effect of group participation on sibling anxiety. The State Trait Anxiety Inventory for Children was administered to 24 siblings before and after group participation.

Results showed that siblings experience less anxiety after participating in the group. Before group participation, a majority of the siblings were more anxious compared with normal peers. The sibling's age and sex, whether the ill child is in treatment, survival perspective, and time since diagnosis were not related to anxiety reduction. The continuation of the group is supported by its positive impact on siblings. Results must nevertheless be interpreted cautiously, considering the small number of siblings participating in the study, the lack of a control group and the restriction to one outcome measure. Copyright © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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