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      The experience of adolescents who have a parent with advanced cancer: A phenomenological inquiry

      Palliative and Supportive Care

      Cambridge University Press (CUP)

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          Abstract

          Objective:

          Adolescents are considered the group most susceptible to negative psychosocial outcomes when faced with a parent's illness. However, there has been extremely limited research on the adolescent's adjustment to advanced parental cancer. The aim of our study was to gain understanding of the experiences of adolescents, in their own words, to gather pilot data about the needs of this population that will be valuable in developing interventions for adolescents facing parental cancer.

          Method:

          A hermeneutic phenomenological approach was applied using in-depth semistructured interviews to inquire about adolescents' experiences. Some 10 adolescents (7 males, 3 females) aged 14–17 were interviewed.

          Results:

          Four essential themes about adolescents living with a parent's advanced cancer emerged from the analysis: “life interrupted,” “being there,” “managing emotions,” and “positives prevail.” These findings underscore the significant impact an advanced cancer diagnosis can have on a family unit and suggest that the experience may also have the potential of creating opportunities for growth and well-being. Our findings reinforce previous results that advocate for the importance of family and peer support, positive attitude, and open communication when a family is coping with advanced parental cancer.

          Significance of results:

          Understanding how adolescents gain strength from their relationships with family and peers offers healthcare professionals an opportunity to have services and strategies in place to foster these relationships.

          Related collections

          Most cited references 16

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          The impact of parental cancer on children and the family: a review of the literature.

          Children of cancer patients may go through a distressing time. The aim of this review was to survey present knowledge on the impact of parental cancer on children and the family. Studies published between January 1980 and March 2004 addressing emotional, social, behavioural, cognitive and physical functioning of children of a parent diagnosed with cancer, as well as the association with child, parental and familial variables were reviewed. Fifty-two studies were found. Emotional problems in school-aged children (11 years) were reported in several qualitative studies, but in only one quantitative study. Quantitative and qualitative studies reported anxiety and depression in adolescents (12 years), in particular in adolescent daughters of ill mothers. Quantitative studies generally showed no behavioural and social problems in school-aged children and adolescents. One quantitative study found physical complaints in school-aged children. However, qualitative studies revealed behavioural problems in school-aged children and also described restrictions in cognitive and physical functioning in children of all ages. The most consistent variables related to child functioning appeared to be parental psychological functioning, marital satisfaction and family communication. Intervention studies directed to the needs of children and their families reported positive effects. While quantitative studies reported especially disturbed emotional functioning, qualitative studies reported problems in all domains of child functioning. Well-designed studies are needed to gain more insight into the psychosocial functioning of children of cancer patients in order to develop tailored care.
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            Adjustment of children facing the death of a parent due to cancer.

            To compare predeath and postdeath levels of depression and anxiety reported by a sample of children who lost a parent to cancer ("study children") with the levels reported by children in a community sample who did not experience such a loss. T scores for depressive symptomatology (Children's Depression Inventory) and state and trait anxiety (State-Trait Anxiety Inventory) were compared. Both samples were weighted to control for multiple participants from the same family. Weights for children in the community sample were further adjusted to match the distribution of the two samples with regard to gender, age, and number of children in the household. Comparisons were made using t tests and chi 2 tests. Whereas study children reported significantly higher levels of depression and anxiety in the predeath period, levels of symptomatology reported for both measures postdeath were similar in both samples. The data suggest that while many children experiencing the loss of a parent to cancer report elevated levels of depression and anxiety predeath, by 7 to 12 months postdeath their reports of depression and anxiety are comparable with those of similarly situated children in the community who did not experience such a loss.
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              Psychosocial adjustment of children with a terminally ill parent.

               G Christ,  D Karus,  K Siegel (1992)
              Although a substantial number of children experience serious parental illness and death, the adjustment problems attendant to the stress of having a fatally ill parent have not been examined systematically. This paper compares the psychosocial adjustment of 62 school-aged children with a terminally ill parent (study sample) with that of children in a community sample, using several standard rating scales. Study children had significantly higher levels of self-reported depression (Children's Depression Inventory) and anxiety (State-Trait Anxiety Inventory) and lower self-esteem (Self-Esteem Inventory). Parents also reported study children's significantly higher behavior problems and lower social competence (Child Behavior Checklist). Increased professional attention to this vulnerable population is encouraged.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                applab
                Palliative and Supportive Care
                Pall Supp Care
                Cambridge University Press (CUP)
                1478-9515
                1478-9523
                August 2015
                September 3 2014
                : 13
                : 04
                : 1057-1069
                Article
                10.1017/S1478951514001023
                © 2014

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