Patient and sibling adjustment to pediatric cancer: the roles of parental relationship adjustment and depressive symptoms

Juliana Alba-Suarez, Savannah L. Davidson, Courtney Priebe, Puja Patel, Emily Greenspahn, Lori Boucher, Erin M. Rodríguez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: Pediatric cancer may impact parents’ partner relationship and increase patient, parent, and sibling distress. This study examined parents’ reports of their relationship adjustment and depressive symptoms and their association with their ratings of patients’ and siblings’ emotional/behavioral problems in families of recently diagnosed pediatric cancer patients. Design: Cross-sectional questionnaire study. Sample: A total of 31 parents (87% female; 71% Latino) of pediatric cancer patients. Methods: Parents reported on their relationship adjustment, depressive symptoms, and the patients’ and siblings’ emotional/behavioral problems. Findings: Poorer relationship adjustment was correlated with more parent depressive symptoms and patient emotional/behavioral problems. Parent depressive symptoms were positively correlated with emotional/behavioral problems in patients and siblings. After accounting for child age and parent depressive symptoms, relationship adjustment remained significantly associated with patient, but not sibling, problems. Conclusions: When parents have poorer relationship adjustment following diagnosis, children with cancer may be at increased risk for emotional/behavioral problems. Implications for psychosocial providers or policy: Interventions targeting the partner relationship may be relevant to supporting family adjustment following diagnosis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)613-628
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Psychosocial Oncology
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • depressive symptoms
  • marital adjustment
  • Pediatric cancer
  • psychosocial adjustment
  • sibling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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