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Losing a parent to cancer as a teenager: Family cohesion in childhood, teenage, and young adulthood as perceived by bereaved and non-bereaved youths

Journal article
Authors D. Birgisdottir
T. B. Grenklo
T. Nyberg
U. Kreicbergs
Gunnar Steineck
C. J. Furst
Published in Psycho-Oncology
ISSN 1057-9249
Publication year 2019
Published at Institute of Clinical Sciences, Department of Oncology
Language en
Links dx.doi.org/10.1002/pon.5163
Keywords adolescents, bereavement, cancer, family cohesion, oncology, parental death, teenagers, young adults, children, death, adolescents, distress, program, model, Oncology, Psychology, Biomedical Social Sciences
Subject categories Cancer and Oncology

Abstract

Objective The aim of this study was to investigate levels of perceived family cohesion during childhood, teenage years, and young adulthood in cancer-bereaved youths compared with non-bereaved peers. Methods In this nationwide, population-based study, 622 (73%) young adults (aged 18-26) who had lost a parent to cancer 6 to 9 years previously, when they were teenagers (aged 13-16), and 330 (78%) non-bereaved peers from a matched random sample answered a study-specific questionnaire. Associations were assessed using multivariable logistic regression. Results Compared with non-bereaved youths, the cancer-bereaved participants were more likely to report poor family cohesion during teenage years (odds ratio [OR] 1.6, 95% CI, 1.0-2.4, and 2.3, 95% CI, 1.5-3.5, for paternally and maternally bereaved youths, respectively). This was also seen in young adulthood among maternally bereaved participants (OR 2.5; 95% CI, 1.6-4.1), while there was no difference between paternally bereaved and non-bereaved youths. After controlling for a number of covariates (eg, year of birth, number of siblings, and depression), the adjusted ORs for poor family cohesion remained statistically significant. In a further analysis stratified for gender, this difference in perceived poor family cohesion was only noted in females. Conclusion Teenage loss of a parent to cancer was associated with perceived poor family cohesion during teenage years. This was also noted in young adulthood among the maternally bereaved. Females were more likely to report poor family cohesion. Our results indicate a need for increased awareness of family cohesion in bereaved-to-be families with teenage offspring, with special attention to gender roles.

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