Mothers and fathers coping with their children's cancer: Individual and interpersonal processes.

Compas BE, Bemis H, Gerhardt CA, Dunn MJ, Rodriguez EM, Desjardins L, Preacher KJ, Manring S, Vannatta K
Health Psychol 34 783-93 08/01/2015


OBJECTIVE: To examine individual and interpersonal processes of coping and emotional distress in a sample of mothers and fathers of children with recently diagnosed cancer.

METHOD: A sample of 317 mothers and 166 fathers of 334 children were recruited near the time of the child's cancer diagnosis or relapse (M = 1.4 months, SD = 1.2). Mothers and fathers completed standardized measures of coping and depressive symptoms.

RESULTS: Analyses of individual coping responses revealed that, for both mothers and fathers, primary control coping (e.g., problem solving, emotional modulation) and secondary control coping (e.g., acceptance, cognitive reappraisal) were associated with lower depressive symptoms. Interpersonal analyses of coping and distress indicated that mothers' and fathers' coping as well as depressive symptoms were significantly correlated. Actor-partner interdependence model analyses indicated that mothers' coping was associated with fathers' depressive symptoms. Significant interactions also suggested that mothers' secondary control coping may have a compensatory effect against fathers' use of disengagement coping, both for themselves and their husbands.

CONCLUSION: Mothers' and fathers' adaptation to a child's cancer diagnosis and treatment are characterized by both individual and interpersonal processes, with secondary control coping playing a central role in both of these processes. Implications for interventions to enhance effective coping for parents of children with cancer are highlighted.

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