Psychological adaptation to childhood cancer: underlying mechanisms

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    Abstract

    The diagnosis of childhood cancer and the subsequent treatment regimen can be challenging for children and their parents. Daily life changes dramatically as a result of frequent hospital visits and treatment side effects. It would be reasonable to expect that children (and their parents) experience high levels of stress and psychological problems. However, most children with cancer, as well as their parents, demonstrate remarkable resilience. How can this be explained?

    This thesis aimed to gain more insight into the mechanisms underlying adaptive functioning of children with cancer (and parents) during the first year post-diagnosis. In particular, we focused on the course of caregiving stress in parents (mothers) and coping mechanisms in children (adolescents). The results showed that the mothers became used to the demands of caregiving (e.g., observation of side effects; the administration of medications; communication with physicians/ nurses) within a relatively short period of time. The adolescents, in turn, displayed a range of adaptive responses such as low pessimism, goal adjustment, and benefit finding (e.g., the illness showed me how much I am loved and has taught me what really matters in life).

    The fact that these responses (rapid decrease in caregiving stress, adaptive coping mechanisms) appeared relatively early in the disease trajectory may explain the adaptive competence of children with cancer and their parents. A better understanding of the mechanisms of resilience provides healthcare workers with tools to help the subgroup of children/parents who adjust less well to cancer.
    Translated title of the contributionPsychologische aanpassing aan kinderkanker: onderliggende mechanismen
    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Groningen
    Supervisors/Advisors
    • Sanderman, Robbert, Supervisor
    • Roodbol, Petrie, Supervisor
    • de Bont, Eveline, Supervisor
    • Fleer, Joke, Co-supervisor
    • Tissing, Wim, Co-supervisor
    Award date4-Feb-2015
    Place of Publication[S.l.]
    Publisher
    Print ISBNs978-90-367-7564-9
    Electronic ISBNs978-90-367-7563-2
    Publication statusPublished - 2015

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