Children and Anxiety

Hester Hill Schnipper, LICSW, OSW-C Program Manager, Oncology Social Work

JUNE 12, 2017

We all know that we worry most about our children. It should not be surprising that, whether or not they show it, our children worry about us, too. Years ago I participated in a study of children whose mothers were being treated for breast cancer. After following the families for several years, the not surprising results were that children who were given age-appropriate information and whose own schedules/routines were not changed too much did fine. These, of course, were children whose parent was expected to stay alive. Families in which a parent is dying have another whole difficult and painful set of issues.

This study from Norway, reported in Cancer Nursing, looked at children's anxiety and overall coping/quality of life when a parent had cancer. No surprise: they generally were faring less well than their peers in a control group whose parents were well.

Here is the abstract. If you would like to read the study, email me (, and I am happy to forward it.

Anxiety and the Quality of Life of Children
Living With Parental Cancer

May Aasebø Hauken, PhD, RN
Mette Senneseth, PhD(c), MSci, RN
Atle Dyregrov, PhD
Kari Dyregrov, PhD

Background: Previous research on children living with parental cancer has mainly
focused on the psychosocial challenges, but few studies have explored their
health-related quality of life (HRQOL). This is important to promote well-being and
discover areas of distress, as well as positive aspects of the children’s life.
Objective: The aim of this study was to study how children’s HRQOL is influenced
by anxiety and whether age and gender act as moderators for this relationship.
Methods: This study used a survey with a cross-sectional design, including
35 children between 8 and 18 years old (mean, 13.3 years old) living with parental
cancer. Questionnaires of HRQOL (Kinder Lebensqualität) and anxiety (Revised
Child Manifest Anxiety Scale) were used. Results: The children reported higher
anxiety and lower HRQOL than the controls. The children’s physiological (P=.03),
emotional (P=.04), and school (P=.00) functions were significantly impaired,
whereas they scored in line with the controls on self-esteem, family, friends, and
overall HRQOL. A negative correlation (r=j0.707, PG.01) between anxiety and
HRQOL was found. Neither age nor gender acted as a moderator between anxiety
and HRQOL. Conclusions: A one-dimensional focus on anxiety may not capture
these children’s multidimensional challenges. In contrast, a focus on HRQOL may
give important knowledge of the children’s challenges, as well as areas where they
function well. Implications for Practice: Healthcare professionals need to work
collaboratively across disciplines and have a multidimensional focus in caring for
patients with cancer who have children. They must provide both the parents and
children with adequate information and tools to handle their family health situation
to promote the children’s HRQOL.

Above content provided by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.
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