• adolescents;
  • mothers;
  • breast cancer;
  • perceptions;
  • school;
  • information and support needs;
  • qualitative research

Perceptions of the role of the school in providing information and support to adolescent children of women with breast cancer

Little is known about the needs of adolescents of women with breast cancer. The purpose of this study was to describe the perceptions of adolescents (ages 12–20) about the role of the school in assisting them in dealing with the cancer experience. An exploratory, qualitative study was done to elicit detailed descriptions of adolescent’s needs for information and support in response to their mother’s breast cancer. A convenience sample of 31 adolescents of women in five illness phases participated in semi-structured interviews. In addition, two focus group interviews were conducted. Interviews were tape-recorded, transcribed and analysed using content analysis techniques. Findings specific to the adolescents’ perceptions of the role of the school were discussed according to content, type, amount, timing, provider and quality of information. Support needs were discussed as type of support, source of support, amount, timing and focus. Although school personnel attempted to be supportive and adolescents received generic information about cancer, overall the needs of the adolescents were not adequately addressed. Recommendations for schools and health services in assisting adolescents to cope with this major life experience are made.