Children and adolescents coping with cancer: self- and parent reports of coping and anxiety/depression.

Compas BE, Desjardins L, Vannatta K, Young-Saleme T, Rodriguez EM, Dunn M, Bemis H, Snyder S, Gerhardt CA
Health Psychol 33 853-61 08/01/2014


OBJECTIVE: The diagnosis and treatment of cancer present children and adolescents with significant stress. However, research on the ways that children and adolescents cope with cancer-related stress has not yielded clear findings on the efficacy of different coping strategies, and has been limited by reliance primarily on self-reports of both coping and distress. To address this gap, the current study used a control-based model of coping to examine self- and parent reports of child/adolescent coping and symptoms of anxiety and depression in a sample of children with cancer.

METHOD: Children and adolescents (5 to 17 years old) and their parents were recruited near the time of a child's diagnosis or relapse of cancer (M = 1.30 months postdiagnosis). Child self-reports (n = 153), mother reports (n = 297), and father reports (n = 161) of children's coping and symptoms of anxiety/depression were obtained.

RESULTS: Bivariate correlations revealed significant associations for secondary control coping (efforts to adapt to source of stress; e.g., acceptance, cognitive reappraisal) and disengagement coping (e.g., avoidance, denial) with anxiety/depression within and across informants. Linear multiple regression analyses indicated that secondary control coping accounted for unique variance in symptoms of anxiety/depression both within and across informants.

CONCLUSIONS: Secondary control coping appears important for children and adolescents during early phases of treatment for cancer, and it may serve as an important target for future interventions to enhance adjustment in these children.

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