The well-being of children impacted by a parent with cancer: an integrative review

Julia N. Morris, Angelita Martini, David Preen

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

70 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: This paper reviewed the peer-reviewed scientific literature on well-being of children impacted by a parent with cancer.

Method: An integrative review of peer-reviewed literature between 2000 and 2015 regarding parental cancer and its impact on families was conducted by searching relevant databases using predefined key search terms. A thematic analysis was undertaken on literature that met inclusion criteria.

Results: Forty-nine studies met the criteria for this review, and five major themes were established: impact of cancer, communication, coping strategies, parenting factors mediating impact, and support services. There was considerable variability in study design, methodological approaches, and findings. In the majority of studies, children were significantly impacted by the parent’s cancer diagnosis and exhibited distress. Daughters appeared to experience worsened mental health, and sons experienced a greater totality of internalizing and externalizing problems. Children of all ages were impacted by their parent’s cancer diagnosis and initiated a number of coping strategies in response. Despite this, a significant number of studies revealed that parents underestimated the impact that their cancer had on their children. Family functioning, as well as the ill parents’ gender, coping strategies, cancer severity, and mental and physical health mediated their children’s well-being. Parent-child communication was a key element in supporting children.

Conclusion: Parental cancer may impact children’s long-term well-being. Further investigations are needed in this area. Additionally, review of support programs and interventions are warranted in terms of their uptake and impact on families affected by a parent’s cancer.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3235-3251
Number of pages17
JournalSupportive Care in Cancer
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Children
  • Distress
  • Family
  • Parental cancer
  • Review
  • Well-being


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