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Psychooncology. 2018 Jun;27(6):1629-1634. doi: 10.1002/pon.4707. Epub 2018 Apr 16.

A randomized controlled trial of a group intervention for siblings of children with cancer: Changes in symptoms of anxiety in siblings and caregivers.

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Department of Psychology, Division of Hematology/Oncology, The Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Canada.
Department of Biostatistics, University Health Network, Toronto, Canada.
Department of Oncology, Division of Psychosocial Oncology, School of Medicine, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada.
Department of Pediatrics, Division of Hematology/Oncology, The Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Canada.



This study assessed the effects of a group intervention-Siblings Coping Together (SibCT)-on siblings' and caregivers' anxiety symptoms compared to controls, and potential moderators.


Seventy healthy siblings of children on or off treatment (7-16 y old, 41 males) participated in a randomized controlled trial (RCT) with 2 arms/groups: SibCT (n = 41) and an attention control (CG) (n = 34). Both groups had eight 2-hour weekly sessions. EG followed SibCT's educational, social, and problem-solving activities. CG had planned games and crafts. Siblings and caregivers self-reported on anxiety symptoms at baseline, intervention end, and 3 months later. Multivariable mixed model analyses examined the intervention effect over time, and potential moderators (gender, on/off ill child's treatment).


No main effects of group or time were found in sibling scores. A group × gender interaction (P < .05) indicated that in the intervention group female siblings reported less total anxiety symptoms than male siblings, with no significant gender differences in the control group. Caregivers' total anxiety symptoms declined over time (P < .02). A group × on/off treatment interaction in physiological/panic subscale (P < .03) indicated that when ill child was on treatment, caregivers of siblings in SibCT reported less anxiety compared with caregivers of CG.


There was no clear SibCT intervention effect. SibCT may benefit female siblings, and caregivers whose ill child is on active treatment. Contextual factors (gender) seem to influence psychosocial intervention in this population.


anxiety; childhood cancer; intervention; mental health; oncology; randomized control trial; siblings

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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