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Int J Nurs Stud. 2018 Jan;77:54-80. doi: 10.1016/j.ijnurstu.2017.08.017. Epub 2017 Sep 1.

How does parental cancer affect adolescent and young adult offspring? A systematic review.

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Canteen Australia, NSW, Australia. Electronic address:
Canteen Australia, NSW, Australia; Cancer Nursing Research Unit, University of Sydney, NSW, Australia.
Canteen Australia, NSW, Australia.



To i) identify and synthesise evidence published since 2007 regarding the impact of parental cancer on adolescent and young adult offspring, ii) identify methodological and evidence gaps addressed during this period and iii) highlight those requiring further attention.


A systematic review and thematic synthesis of peer reviewed literature regarding the impact of parental cancer upon AYA offspring.


Online searches of CINAHL, Embase, Medline, PsychInfo and Scopus databases were conducted. Reference lists of included articles were screened and additional searches by prominent authors were performed.


Study selection, data extraction and quality analysis was undertaken by three independent researchers. Extracted study data was iteratively reviewed and discussed to achieve consensus regarding thematic synthesis of included studies.


Database and hand-searching yielded 1730 articles, 54 of which were included in the final synthesis. Included studies are discussed with respect to the following themes: i) study design and quality; ii) measurement and sampling; iii) positive and negative aspects of parental cancer; iv) needs; v) communication and information; vi) coping strategies; vii) interventions; and viii) family functioning and other predictors. Twenty-nine studies reported negative impacts related to parental cancer, while eight identified positive outcomes related to post-traumatic growth. Five returned null or mixed findings. Unmet needs were frequently explored and a new validated measure developed. Communication and information were particularly important for offspring, though these needs were often unmet and parents wanted guidance regarding discussions with their children. Offspring may adopt a variety of coping strategies, some of which appear maladaptive, and may cycle between different approaches. Few evaluations of interventions were identified, and further work in this area is needed. Further evidence has emerged that poorer family functioning and other family and illness-related factors predict worse psychosocial outcomes for offspring, however evidence for other predictors such as age and gender remain mixed.


Additional evidence for the negative psychosocial impact of parental cancer on adolescent and young adult offspring, their needs, and factors predicting psychosocial outcomes has emerged in the last decade. However, substantial gaps and methodological issues remain and evidence for the development, efficacy or implementation of interventions for this population is very limited. There is also a clear need for greater focus on bereaved and young adult offspring and those from non-western cultural groups, who remain under-represented in research conducted to date.


Adolescent and young adult; Offspring; Outcomes; Parental cancer; Psychosocial

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