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Emotional functioning of parents of children with cancer: the first five years of continuous remission after the end of treatment

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Maurice-Stam, H.; Oort, F. J.; Last, B. F.; Grootenhuis, M. A.

OBJECTIVES: The aim of this study is to investigate parental emotional functioning during the first five years of continuous remission after the end of their child’s treatment and to identify predictors of parental emotional functioning. METHODS: Psychological distress and situation-specific emotional reactions were assessed in 122 mothers and 109 fathers from 130 families. Longitudinal mixed model analyses were performed to investigate to what extent generic and disease-related coping, family functioning and social support were predictive of parental emotional functioning over time. RESULTS: Initial elevated levels of distress, disease-related feelings of uncertainty and helplessness returned to normal levels during the first two years after the end of treatment. Being more optimistic about the further course of the child’s disease (predictive control) was correlated with lower psychological distress and less negative disease-related feelings, while more passive reaction patterns were correlated with higher psychological distress and more negative disease-related feelings. CONCLUSIONS: Although in general the parents of children with successfully treated cancer showed adequate emotional resilience, support for these parents should not stop when treatment ends. Parents in need of help can be identified on the basis of their coping abilities.

Research abstracts