IMPACT OF PARENTAL TERMINAL CANCER ON ADOLESCENTS

Authors

  • Grace H. Christ D.S.W,

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      Authors are at: School of Social Work, Columbia University, New York (Christ), and Department of Social Work, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (Siegel, Sperber) New York.

  • Karolynn Siegel Ph.D,

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      Authors are at: School of Social Work, Columbia University, New York (Christ), and Department of Social Work, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (Siegel, Sperber) New York.

  • Diane Sperber M.S.W

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      Authors are at: School of Social Work, Columbia University, New York (Christ), and Department of Social Work, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (Siegel, Sperber) New York.


  • A revised version of a paper submitted to the Journal in August 1993. Work was supported by grants from the National Institute of Mental Health (MH41967), American Cancer Society (PRB-24A), van Amerigen Foundation, and Society of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

Columbia University School of Social Work, 622 West 113th Street, New York, NY 10025

Abstract

Psychological and emotional concerns of adolescents during a parent's terminal cancer are described. Compared to younger children, the adolescents' greater cognitive and empathic capacities allowed them to be more aware of losses and of the parent's physical and emotional pain. Parental illness also precipitated conflict around issues of developmentally appropriate separation. The capacity to use intellectual defenses, search for meaning and deeper understanding, and seek help were potent coping abilities. Contrary to the prevailing view, most of the adolescents coped with stress without resorting to severe acting out.

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