Understanding the Perceived Influence of Childhood Cancer on the Parents' Marital/Partner Relationship: A Descriptive Study
- Parents face numerous stressors when their child is diagnosed with cancer, each of
which can strain a marriage/partnership.
- Marital/partner relationship dynamics are often not assessed or addressed when
providing health care for children with cancer. Many parents struggle to effectively
cope with the changes in parenting roles that frequently accompany treatment of
- How parents cope with these stressors can strengthen or weaken the relationship, and
can impact the entire family, including the care to the child undergoing cancer
- Limited studies have examined relationship stress or satisfaction during a child's
treatment for cancer or the critical time points and events during the child's
treatment when the relationship becomes most stressed and/or strengthened.
- To explore whether the stress associated with having a child with cancer is perceived
to impact the communication between partners.
- To explore whether positive dyadic coping (joint decision making, joint problem
solving, sharing responsibilities) is perceived to have strengthened the marital
relationship/partnership following the child's diagnosis with cancer.
- To describe the time points and events during the child's treatment when the parents'
relationship becomes most stressed and/or strengthened.
- To compare the perceptions of various subgroups in the sample, (e.g. parents who score
either high or low on a marital stress scale, mothers versus fathers) statistically or
qualitatively as the distribution of the characteristics of the sample allow.
- Participants must have been in a partnership at the time the child was diagnosed with
cancer. At least one of the participating parents must be a biological or legal parent
of the child. If a divorce/separation occurred with a previous partner during/after the
child's cancer treatment, the other partner will be invited to participate.
- The participant's child must be between 1-24 years of age.
- There are 2 groups of participants being recruited: 1) those who have a child who has
been diagnosed with cancer at least 3 months prior to enrolling on this study and are
currently undergoing cancer treatment and 2) those who have completed treatment at age
21 or younger (without evidence of disease) within the previous 3 years.
- Participants must be fluent in the English language.
- The participant's child must have been diagnosed with cancer at least 3 months prior to
enrollment on this study.
- Participants must verbalize willingness to discuss the impact of their child's cancer
diagnosis on their relationship.
- Cross-sectional, multi-center, exploratory study utilizing a convenience sample to
explore the parents' perception of how the child's cancer diagnosis, treatment,
decision-making and other aspects of care are addressed and impact the martial
- Subjects will complete a self-administered measure that addresses potential stresses
experienced in the partnership since the child's diagnosis and how each are either
resolved or create a divide in the relationship.
- Subjects who experience a high or low degree of relationship stress on a
standardized marital stress form (a score greater than one standard deviation from the
norm) will be invited to participate in a qualitative interview, that further explores
which components of parenting a child with cancer is most challenging on the
- Up to 240 participants will be enrolled onto the study (up to 120 couples), and we aim
for qualitative interviews with approximately 26% of the sample. Subjects will be
offered a gift card ($20 Target gift card at NIH) upon completion of the questionnaire
for their time and inconvenience, where available.
Lori Wiener, Ph.D.
National Cancer Institute (NCI)
United States: Federal Government
|National Institutes of Health Clinical Center, 9000 Rockville Pike||Bethesda, Maryland 20892|
|Dana Farber Cancer Institute||Boston, Massachusetts 02115|