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Pediatr Blood Cancer. 2006 Oct 15;47(5):580-8.

The effectiveness of a peer support camp for siblings of children with cancer.

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  • 1Department of Pediatric & Adolescent Clinical Haematology/Oncology, Princess Margaret Hospital for Children, and School of Occupational Therapy, Curtin University of Technology WA, Perth Western Australia 6008.



Siblings of children with cancer have higher levels of psychological stress and adaptational difficulties compared to siblings of healthy children and children with other chronic illness. This is the first study to report on the mental health of Australian siblings of children with cancer and examines the effects of a therapeutic peer support camp-Camp Onwards, as an intervention.


A protocol, designed to reduce levels of distress, improve social competence, and improve knowledge about the impact of cancer and its treatment was developed. Siblings (n=26) 8-13 years were assessed using standardised self-report measures pre and post intervention and at -8 weeks follow-up with: the Behaviour Assessment for Children (BASC) (Reynolds & Kamphaus, 1992), Self Perception Profile for Children (SPP-C) (Harter, 1985), Sibling Perception Questionnaire (SPQ) (Carpenter & Sahler, 1991).


Change was measured using paired t tests. At pre-test, 40% of the sample demonstrated increased levels of emotional distress when compared to the normal population. Post intervention, siblings reported lower levels of distress demonstrated by decreased anxiety (P=0.01) and positive changes in the Self Report of Personality [BASC] (P=0.00). Improved social competence was noted in the interpersonal domain of the SPQ (P=0.01) and also greater social acceptance scores on the SPP-C (P=0.01). Improved knowledge about the impact of cancer and its treatment was evidenced by significant reductions in the fear of disease domain on the SPQ (P=0.01).


Siblings who attended Camp Onwards demonstrated improved mental health outcomes that were sustained at follow-up, demonstrating its effectiveness as an intervention strategy in supporting sibling adjustment.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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