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Soc Sci Med. 2006 Aug;63(4):883-98. Epub 2006 May 2.

Parent communication and child pain and distress during painful pediatric cancer treatments.

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Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute, Wayne State University, and Children's Hospital of Michigan, Detroit, MI, USA.


Children with cancer often consider treatment procedures to be more traumatic and painful than cancer itself. Previous research indicates that parents' behavior before and during painful medical procedures influences children's distress level. Understanding parents' naturally occurring communication patterns is essential to identifying families in need of an intervention to enhance coping and emotional well-being. Using the concept of definition of the situation from a symbolic interactionism theoretical framework, this study developed a typology of parent communication patterns and tested relationships between those patterns and children's responses to potentially painful treatment procedures. Analyses are based on video-recorded observations of 31 children and their primary parents (individuals functioning in a parenting role and serving as the primary familial caregivers during the observed procedure) in the USA during clinic visits for potentially painful pediatric oncology treatments. Four communication patterns emerged: normalizing, invalidating, supportive, and distancing. The most common communication patterns differed by clinic visit phase: normalizing during pre-procedure, supportive during procedure, and both distancing and supportive during post-procedure. Parents' communication also varied by procedure type. Supportive communication was most common during lumbar punctures; normalizing and distancing communication were most common during port starts. Six children (19.4%) experienced invalidation during at least one clinic visit phase. Analyses indicated that invalidated children experienced significantly more pain and distress than children whose parents used other communication patterns. This typology provides a theoretical approach to understanding previous research and offers a framework for the continuing investigation of the influence of parents' communication during potentially painful pediatric oncology procedures.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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