Date of Award

12-2022

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Lindsey L. Cohen

Second Advisor

Laura McKee

Third Advisor

Jordan Gilleland Marchak

Fourth Advisor

Lisa Armistead

Abstract

Parents of children with cancer experience stress and hardship during their child’s cancer journey and after their child has entered into their survivorship phase. Previous research demonstrates that parents of children with cancer have benefited from social support; however, few studies have examined parents’ social support specifically from friends and during the phase when their child is a young-adult in survivorship. This study examined a population of parents whose young adult children are in the survivorship phase of their cancer, and evaluated parents’ social support from friends in relation to demographic and cancer-related factors, as well as parents’ posttraumatic growth. Results indicated that fathers report less social support from friends than mothers, but differences in social support according to other factors (e.g., race, SES, cancer treatment intensity) did not emerge. Parents’ social support from friends was positively related to their posttraumatic growth as expected. A tertiary aim examined how parents perceive their social support to have changed from before their child’s diagnosis, to during their child’s cancer, to the current time in survivorship. Parents endorsed several trajectories of change in their social support from friends, (e.g., trajectories of resilience, growth, and depreciation); although many parents endorsed no change in their social support over time. Overall, findings suggest that social support from friends is relatively similar for parents of different races, ethnicities, incomes, and experiences of cancer treatment, with the exception of fathers being at risk for worse social support from friends during their child’s survivorship phase. Social support is related to posttraumatic growth, an adaptive outcome for parents; thus, clinicians working with these families are encouraged to assess for social support from friends in parents even after their child has entered into the survivorship phase of their cancer.

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