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Cancer Pract. 1996 Jan-Feb;4(1):15-24.

The functioning of single women with breast cancer and their school-aged children.

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  • 1University of Washington School of Nursing, Seattle, USA.


Although there are significant numbers of single women with breast cancer who are rearing children, there is no known study of their own or their school-aged children's adjustment to the illness. The purposes of this study are: 1) to describe the adjustment of single women to early stage breast cancer; 2) to contrast their responses to a comparable sample of married/partnered women; 3) and to document the psychosocial functioning of school-aged children when their single mother has breast cancer. Results obtained from questionnaire data from 22 single and 101 married/partnered women revealed that single women had significantly higher rates of depression; reported significantly higher numbers of illness-related pressures on their family; had a significantly higher proportion of young children scoring in the abnormal range on measures of self-worth and social acceptance; and reported lower quality in parenting their children. Interviews with single women revealed that many were burdened by feelings of self-deprecation because of their breast cancer, and many felt alone with the disease through the initial diagnosis period, during treatments, and through recovery. Evidence from this pilot study suggests that single women need early and immediate linkage into an informational and educational network and a viable adult support network.

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