Project Description (1)

Coping and Communication in Children with Cancer and Their Parents

Study Description

View more information about this study here at the NIH RePORT page.

One of the most difficult questions facing parents of children with cancer is, “How do I talk with my child about cancer?” Further, parents of children with a poor prognosis struggle with the question, “How do I talk with my child about the possibility of death?” Parents often turn to healthcare providers for guidance, but ultimately parents must determine the type and amount of information they share with their child about the disease, treatment, and prognosis. Parents must decide how to balance this information in the context of managing their own and their child’s fear and worries. Although the National Cancer Institute (NCI) has recommended that parents communicate openly and honestly about cancer, little research has addressed this issue in pediatric oncology. Moreover, no studies have used direct observation of parents and children as they discuss the diagnosis or examined how communication is associated with coping and adjustment over time.

This study is using standardized questionnaires and direct observation to assess parent-child communication about and coping with cancer and determine how the content and process of communication are associated with family outcomes. As of June, 2010, over 200 families of children newly diagnosed with cancer or a recurrence have been recruited from two sites (Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center and Nationwide Children’s Hospital/Ohio State University) 1 month after the child’s diagnosis and follow-up assessments are conducted 3 and 12 months after the child’s diagnosis.

We are now completing a follow up study to collect 2 additional waves of data, including direct observations of parent-child interactions, up to 5 years after diagnosis.

The study has potentially significant public health implications as over 12,400 children are diagnosed with cancer in the U.S. each year, and 2,300 die annually from the disease. The long-term goal of this study is to use our findings to develop and test interventions to facilitate parent-child communication about and coping with childhood cancer and in order to reduce children’s and parents’ psychological distress and improve their quality of life.

 

Funding

This project is funded by a grants (R01CA118332) (R01CA118332-07) from the National Cancer Institute and a gift from Patricia and Rodes Hart.

 

Other Links and Resources

Publications

Conference Presentations:

  • Dunn, M. J., Rodriguez, E. M., Zuckerman, T., Haker, K., Grossenbacher, J. C., Miller, K. S., Vannatta, K., Gerhardt, C., Compas, B. E. (2010, November). Coping and regulation of positive affect in children with cancer. Poster accepted for presentation at the Annual Convention of the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies (ABCT), San Francisco, CA.
  • Kaal, K.J, Corbisiero, A., Grossenbacher, J.C, Dunn, M.J., Rodriguez, E.M., Zuckerman, T., Vannatta, K., Compas, B.E., & Gerhardt, C. A. (2010, October). The role of spirituality in mothers’ and fathers’ adjustment to childhood cancer. Poster accepted to the 42nd Congress of the International Society of Pediatric Oncology, Boston, MA.
  • Corbisiero, A., Grossenbacher, J. C., Kaal, J., Dunn, M., Rodriguez, E. M., Zuckerman, T., Vannatta, K., Compas, B., & Gerhardt, C. A. (2010, June). Physician and family predictions of late effects among children newly diagnosed with cancer. Poster presented at the 5th Biennial Cancer Survivorship Research Conference, Washington, DC.
  • Dunn, M. J., Rodriguez, E., Vannatta, K., Gerhardt, C., Compas, B.E. (2010, April). Parent-child communication about childhood cancer: Role of mothers’ anxiety and perceptions of prognosis. Poster presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society of Behavioral Medicine (SBM), Seattle, WA.
    Rodriguez, E., Dunn, M. J., Vannatta, K., Gerhardt, C., Compas, B.E. (2010, April). Stress and mothers’ behavior in families of children with cancer. Poster presented at SBM, Seattle, WA.
  • Rodriguez, E. M., Dunn, M. J., Saylor, M., Zuckerman, T., Grossenbacher, J., Vannatta, K., Gerhardt, C. A., & Compas, B. E. (2009, November). Parenting behaviors in families of children with cancer. Poster presented at the Annual Convention of the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies, New York, NY.
  • Dunn, M. J., Rodriguez, E. M., Gerhardt, C. A., Grossenbacher, J., Vannatta, K., & Compas, B. E. (2009, November). Coping strategies and posttraumatic stress symptoms in parents of children with cancer. Poster presented at the Annual Convention of the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies, New York, NY.
  • Grossenbacher, J. C., Miller, K. S., Vannatta, K., Compas, B. E., & Gerhardt, C. A. (2009, October). Predicting maternal distress over one year of treatment for childhood cancer. Poster presented at the 27th Annual Meeting of the Society for Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, Portland, OR.
    Rodriguez, E. M., Dunn, M.J., Miller, K.S., Vannatta, K., Gerhardt, C. A., Compas, B. E. (2009, October). Cancer-related stressors and emotional adjustment in children with cancer. Poster presented at the 27th Annual Meeting of the Society for Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, Portland, OR.
    Rodriguez, E. M., Reising, M.R., Daigre, A., Van Slyke, D.A., Saylor, M.M., Schuele, M., Vannatta, K., Gerhardt, C.A., & Compas, B.E. (2009, April). Parental Communication about Cancer and Child Emotional Distress. Poster accepted for presentation at the Society for Research in Child Development, Denver, CO.
  • Rodriguez, E. M., Dunn, M.J., Grossenbacher, J.C., Van Slyke, D.A., Saylor, M.M., Sanger, M., Vannatta, K., Gerhardt, C.A., & Compas, B.E. (2009, April). Parental Communication, Child Age, and Emotional Distress in Families of Children with Cancer. Poster accepted for presentation at the Society for Research in Child Development, Denver, CO.
  • Dunn, M. J., Rodriguez, E. M., Reising, M. M., Thompson, A. L., Hus, A. M., Von Wahlde, K., Vannatta, K., Gerhardt, C., Compas, B. E. (2009 April). Observed warm parenting behaviors in parents of children with cancer. Poster accepted for presentation at the Society for Research in Child Development (SRCD) Conference, Denver, CO.
  • Reising, M., Dunn, M. J., Robinson, K., Miller, K., Gilmer, M. J., Vannatta, K., Gerhardt, C., Compas, B. E. (2009 April). Paradoxical Effects of Stress on Coping in Children with Cancer. Poster accepted for presentation at the SRCD Conference, Denver, CO.
  • Miller, K. S., Thompson, A. L., Grossenbacher, J. C., Dunn, M. J., Reising, M. M., Vannatta, K., Compas, B. E., & Gerhardt, C. A. (2009, April). Coping as a predictor of changes in child distress over one year of cancer treatment. Poster to be presented at the Biennial Meeting of the Society of Research in Child Development, Denver, CO.
  • Ramsey, R. R., Vannatta, K., Rodriguez, E. M., Van Slyke, D., Gerhardt, C. A., & Compas, B. E. (2009, April). Parent-child communication when a child has cancer: Associations of general and disease-specific processes with child adjustment. Poster to be presented at the Biennial Meeting of the Society of Research in Child Development, Denver, CO.
  • Salley, C. G., Ach, E. L., Gerhardt, C. A., Compas, B. E., & Vannatta, K. (2009, April). Role of early mother-child communication in children’s later adjustment following pediatric cancer diagnosis or relapse. Poster presented at the Midwest Conference on Pediatric Psychology.

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