Academic journal article Family Relations

Parent-Child Relationships and Quality of Life: Resilience among Childhood Cancer Survivors*

Academic journal article Family Relations

Parent-Child Relationships and Quality of Life: Resilience among Childhood Cancer Survivors*

Article excerpt

Abstract:

According to The Resiliency Model of Family Stress, Adjustment, and Adaptation, certain family strengths can promote positive outcomes for children undergoing adverse or stressful circumstances. We proposed that chief among these potential strengths are high quality parent-child relationships. Data from self-report questionnaires from 190 long-term survivors (3+ years posttreatment) of childhood cancer were analyzed. The findings indicated that survivors who report better relationships with their mothers and fathers consistently report a higher quality of life, especially in the psychological domain. Although survivors reported better relationships with their mothers than with their fathers, father-child relations were associated more highly with survivors' reports of selective quality of life scales. Important implications for family therapists and practitioners are discussed, especially those that employ a growth or resilience approach.

Key Words: cancer, child, parent-child relationships, resilience, survivors.

Interpersonal relationships are vital to individuals' psychological and physical well-being in that they are related positively to life satisfaction and enjoyment (Bradbury, Cohan, & Karney, 1998; Campbell, Converse, & Rodgers, 1976; Gurin, Veroff, & Feld, 1960). Although individuals may form numerous interpersonal relationships throughout their lives, parent-child relationships begin early in children's lives and are critical for children's long-term adjustment and success. Evidence consistently indicates that parent-child relationships are linked to children's development, adjustment, well-being, and educational attainment throughout the life course (Amato & Booth, 1991; Rossi & Rossi, 1990; Thornton, Orbuch, & Axinn, 1995).

Parents provide children with social capital for achieving long-term goals and outcomes (Cherlin et al., 1991), global orientations toward interpersonal and social relationships (Hazan & Shaver, 1987; Kirkpatrick & Hazan, 1994; Koback & Hazan, 1991), and social support and understanding in times of stress and distress. Childhood cancer is a prototype of a stressful situation, an illness with potentially devastating effects on children and their families (Chesler & Barbarin, 1987; Stuber, Kazak, Meeske, & Barakat, 1997; VanDongen-Melman, Pruyn, Van Zanen, & Sanders-Woudstra, 1986). Research shows that cancer has long-term physical and psychological impact on children and families after treatment when the child appears to be cured-or to be a "survivor" (see, for instance Kazak & Barakat, 1997; Zebrack & Chesler, 2001a). Because childhood cancer is a strain on the entire family, and because this strain continues long after successful treatment and the child reaches survivor status, family relationships are inevitably challenged and often altered over time (Koch, Harter, Jacob, & Siegrist, 1996; Ostrofif & Steinglass, 1996). Central to these changes are ones that occur in relationships between the survivor and his or her parents (Bloom, 1996; Dolgon & Phipps, 1996).

The majority of literature on adjustment to childhood cancer refers to the importance of parent-child relationships for survivor adjustment. Yet, few studies investigate how survivors feel about their relationships with their parents. Further, most studies focus on measures of family adaptation, functioning, or coping as reported by the parents (e.g., McCubbin, Balling, Possin, Frierdich, & Bryne, 2002). Although family coping or adaptation is an important outcome in families where a child is diagnosed with cancer, our study advances knowledge and makes a contribution to the literature by focusing on the link between survivors' evaluations of parent-child relations and their own self-reported quality of life. According to The Resiliency Model of Family Stress, Adjustment, and Adaptation (McCubbin & McCubbin, 1993, 1996), certain family strengths can promote positive outcomes for children undergoing adverse or stressful circumstances. …

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