Background. Reports published over the last few decades present contradictory findings about the psychological distress and coping patterns of parents whose children have cancer. Although an increasing number of studies have focused on psychological distress and the adjustment process that parents experience when their children are diagnosed with cancer, few of these studies have been conducted in Taiwan.
Aims. Gender differences of parental distress experienced by Taiwanese mothers and fathers (164 couples) whose children were undergoing treatment for cancer were investigated.
Methods. Parenting stress, psychological distress, somatization, as well as marital satisfaction were compared between mothers and fathers whose children had cancer.
Results. Mothers averaged significantly higher levels than fathers for all forms of distress. Mothers and fathers whose children had been diagnosed within the previous 2 months reported higher levels of depression, anxiety, and global stress than those in the other groups. Both mothers and fathers whose children had been diagnosed within the past 2 months reported greater marital dissatisfaction than parents whose children were in the other treatment groups.
Conclusions. This finding indicates the need for a thorough psychiatric consultation at the time of diagnosis for children who have cancer and their families. Ongoing psychosocial support and education should have been integral components of the treatment program when relapse occurred.