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Cancer. 2009 Sep 15;115(18):4227-37. doi: 10.1002/cncr.24502.

Parent-child communication patterns during the first year after a parent's cancer diagnosis: the effect on parents' functioning.

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Wenckebach Institute, University Medical Center, University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands.



Good parent-child communication is thought to help families adjust more easily during stressful events such as parental cancer. Families dealing with cancer who communicate openly have reported less psychological distress. The first year after diagnosis may be particularly stressful. The authors investigated parents' quality of life (QOL) and stress-response symptoms and parent-child communication during the first year after diagnosis and examined possible relationships between communication and parents' functioning.


Recently-diagnosed cancer patients (N=70) and spouses (N=55) participated within 4 months of diagnosis (T1) and 6 months (T2) and 12 months later (T3). Parents reported on communication with the children (PACS) and on their own physical and psychosocial functioning (RAND-36) and stress-response symptoms (IES).


Parent-child communication remained stable throughout the first year after diagnosis and was similar to communication in families 1 year to 5 years after diagnosis. Patients' functioning improved and cancer-related distress decreased significantly. Spouses' cancer-related distress decreased; their functioning fluctuated through the year. In concurrent analyses, patients' open communication with the children related only to T1 intrusion. Spouses' open communication related to T3 psychosocial functioning; problem communication related to T1 and T2 psychosocial functioning and T2 avoidance. In prospective analyses, no significant relationships were found between parent-child communication and change in parents' functioning.


Communication between parents and children remained stable over time; patients' and spouses' functioning improved. Parent-child communication seems to have a limited affect on parents' functioning.

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