Memories of Parent Behaviors and Adult Attachment in Childhood Cancer Survivors

Vicky Lehmann*, Mariët Hagedoorn, Cynthia A Gerhardt, Madelaine C Keim, Lory Guthrie, Robbert Sanderman, Marrit A Tuinman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

PURPOSE: Childhood cancer is stressful for the entire family. Preoccupation and anxiety surrounding the child's illness may result in parents of children with cancer being overprotective or less emotionally responsive toward their children. Such parenting in response to a negative life event like childhood cancer may cause survivors to be more insecurely attached than healthy peers, which could have downstream effects on survivors' romantic relationships later in life. Therefore, we examined survivors' perspectives on parent behaviors, adult attachment, and marital status among adult survivors of childhood cancer relative to controls.

METHODS: One hundred forty-nine young adult survivors and 149 matched controls (Mage = 28, range 20-40) indicated their relationship status (single vs. partnered) and completed standardized questionnaires assessing memories of upbringing (warmth, overprotection, rejection) and adult attachment (avoidance, anxiety).

RESULTS: Adult survivors of childhood cancer remembered mothers and fathers as emotionally warmer (d = 0.53/0.30), and mothers as less rejecting than controls (d = 0.30). Adult attachment was overall similar between survivors and controls, but partnered survivors reported particularly low attachment-related anxiety. Childhood cancer was related to higher mother and father warmth, which were associated with lower attachment-related avoidance and in turn with a greater likelihood of being in a relationship.

CONCLUSION: Adult childhood cancer survivors did not remember their parents as overprotective, but reported more positive parenting relative to controls; and similar adult attachment and relationship status. The results were unexpected, but offer novel insights for future prospective studies, which are necessary to better understand psychosocial late effects of childhood cancer.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)134-141
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of adolescent and young adult oncology
Volume6
Issue number1
Early online date21-Oct-2016
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar-2017

Keywords

  • adult attachment
  • marital status
  • parenting
  • pediatric cancer
  • romantic relationships
  • survivor
  • ACUTE LYMPHOBLASTIC-LEUKEMIA
  • ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIPS
  • FOLLOW-UP
  • DEVELOPMENTAL PERSPECTIVE
  • ADOLESCENT CANCER
  • PEDIATRIC CANCER
  • FERTILITY ISSUES
  • SOCIAL OUTCOMES
  • INFANCY
  • EXPERIENCES

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