Relationship status and quality of the partner relationship in parents of long-term childhood cancer survivors: The Swiss Childhood Cancer Survivor Study-Parents
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OBJECTIVE: The intensive and long-lasting experience of childhood cancer is a tremendous stressor for the parental relationship. We aimed to (1) compare civil status and partner relationship of parents of long-term childhood cancer survivors with population-based comparisons, (2) identify cancer-related characteristics associated with not being married, and (3) evaluate the quality of the partner relationship. METHODS: We sent questionnaires to parents of survivors aged ≤16 years at diagnosis and ≥20 years at study. Population-based comparisons were derived from a random sample of the general population (≥1 child aged ≥20 years) and standardized by sociodemographic characteristics of survivor parents. We used logistic regression to identify cancer-related characteristics associated with not being married. The quality of the partner relationship was evaluated using the relationship-specific attachment scale for adults assessing the dimensions security (secure-fearful) and dependency (dependent-independent). RESULTS: A total of 784 parents (58.9% mothers) of 512 survivors (response rate: 44.0%) and 471 comparison parents completed the questionnaire. Parents of survivors were less often divorced/separated (9.0% vs 17.5%, P < 0.001) and more often in a partner relationship (89.9% vs 85.0%, P = 0.010) than comparisons. Not being married was not associated with cancer-related characteristics. Parents of survivors reported similar security (P = 0.444) but higher dependency (P = 0.032) within the partner relationship than comparisons. In both populations, fathers indicated higher security and dependency than mothers. CONCLUSIONS: Long after the diagnosis of cancer in their child, parents' relationship appears similar as in parents of the general population. The increased dependency reported by parents of survivors suggests that they managed their child's disease as a team.
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