Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Childhood cancer is no longer viewed as inevitably fatal but rather as a chronic life-threatening illness. Child cancer patients and their families are now faced with longer phases of treatment and an inability to predict the future. Beyond a general recognition of the potential hardships they must endure, we know very little about the psychosocial consequences for the families of children who are surviving cancer.;The present study was designed to assess whether the presence of chronic strain, as experienced by families of child cancer survivors, is associated with (a) increased psychological distress, as measured by levels of depression and anxiety in the parents or (b) lower family adaptation, as measured by levels of functioning in the family and by marital adjustment. The ability of certain personal and social resources to moderate the association of chronic strain with psychological distress and family adaptation was also assessed.;Outcomes for survivors' families were assessed by using a matched comparison sample of parents whose children have never experienced a chronic life-threatening illness and who lived in the neighbourhoods of the survivors' families. A total of 143 parents (80 mothers and 63 fathers) of 80 cancer survivors and 151 parents (79 mothers and 72 fathers) of 80 healthy children completed self-administered questionnaires.;Overall, the families of cancer survivors were not found to be at higher risk for psychological distress or family dysfunction than families with healthy children. The relationship of chronic strain with psychological distress was observed under the condition of low levels of experienced social support, however. Social support appeared to buffer the effect that chronic strain had on depression in fathers and on anxiety in mothers and fathers. Parents of child cancer survivors may represent appropriate targets for intervention, if the assumed direction of the relationships found here can be confirmed through longitudinal research.



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