Parenting concerns, psychological distress, and relationship functioning in parents coping with cancer

Thumbnail Image



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title

Repository Usage Stats



Introduction: Studies have found that cancer patients with dependent children exhibit high symptoms of anxiety, depression, and worry. Patients’ parenting concerns can negatively impact their own and their family’s adjustment to the cancer experience. Little is known about parenting concerns of partners of cancer patients, or associations between parenting concerns and couples’ relationship functioning. This study investigated parenting concerns in both patients and partners, and their associations with psychological and relationship functioning. Methods: Patients with stage II-IV cancer (n=38; 74% female) and their partners (n=34; 26% female) completed questionnaires assessing parenting concerns, depression, couple cancer-related communication, and relationship satisfaction. Correlations and paired t-tests were used to examine associations between patient and partner parenting concerns. Multilevel modeling for dyadic (paired) data was used to examine associations between parenting concerns, psychological distress, communication, and relationship functioning for patients and partners. Results: Results indicated patient and partner parenting concerns were significantly correlated (r = .65, p < .0001). There were no significant differences in the levels of parenting concerns between patients and partners (p = .78). For both patients and partners, higher parenting concerns were associated with significantly poorer cancer-related communication (B = .55, SE = .16, p = .001) and higher depression (approaching significance; B = 1.89, SE = .99, p = .06). Parenting concerns were not significantly associated with relationship satisfaction (p < .05). Conclusions/Implications: These findings suggest patients and partners have similar levels of parenting concerns and that parenting concerns are associated with higher levels of depression and poorer communication. This indicates the need for additional psychological support and mutual spousal support for couples raising children while navigating the cancer experience.





McDaniel, Hannah (2019). Parenting concerns, psychological distress, and relationship functioning in parents coping with cancer. Honors thesis, Duke University. Retrieved from

Dukes student scholarship is made available to the public using a Creative Commons Attribution / Non-commercial / No derivative (CC-BY-NC-ND) license.