A closer look at the social and emotional outcomes for childhood cancer survivors

Riley, Katie
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The outlook for children with cancer has improved greatly, leading to an ever-increasing population of survivors of childhood cancer. A childhood cancer diagnosis can impact concurrent and future development. In order to provide a deeper understanding for the increasing childhood cancer survivor population, this dissertation focused on the social support experiences of adolescent cancer survivors (ACS) and how these social support experiences are associated with psychosocial wellbeing outcomes, both concurrently and in emerging adulthood. For chapter 2, an interpretative phenomenological approach was utilized to explore the social experiences of 16 ACS at an oncology camp. To further explore ACS social support experiences and its relationship to an important aspect of adolescent development, the third chapter examined the association between sources of support and specific self-esteem domains (i.e., performance, social, and appearance). Lastly, to explore the possible long-term impact of social support for ACS, the fourth chapter analyzed the association between adolescent social support and depression and self-esteem in emerging adulthood. Furthermore, this paper explored the influence of age of a cancer diagnosis on the relationship between adolescent social support and depression and self-esteem in emerging adulthood, and if one source of support was more influential on depression or self-esteem in emerging adulthood

The key findings from chapter 2 indicated that ACS who attended oncology camp strongly identify as a cancer survivor regardless of the age at which they were diagnosed and received treatment, and creating and maintaining relationships with other ACS peers is an important and unique support that they value. The results from chapter 3 indicated that parents and peers are both influential on ACS self-esteem, but peers may be more impactful on appearance self-esteem than parents. Lastly, the population-based sample within the Add Health dataset in chapter 4 did not yield an association between adolescent social support and wellbeing outcomes in emerging adulthood. However, we did find that mother support in adolescence was more influential on depression in emerging adulthood.

Overall, these chapters shed light on the importance of social support for ACS, as their perceptions of support are related to key developmental tasks in adolescence (i.e., identity and self-esteem). For some ACS, creating friendships with other ACS is desired, and a way for them to feel better supported as a survivor. These relationships with other ACS and healthy peers help to increase the ACS self-esteem.

adolescent cancer survivors, childhood cancer survivors, health outcomes, social support, survivorship