Trajectories of adjustment in mothers of children with newly diagnosed cancer: A natural history investigation

Michael J. Dolgin, Sean Phipps, Diane L. Fairclough, Olle Jane Z. Sahler, Martha Askins, Robert B. Noll, Robert W. Butler, James W. Varni, Ernest R. Katz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

135 Scopus citations


Objectives: The objectives of this study were (a) to assess negative affectivity and posttraumatic symptomatology in mothers following the diagnosis of cancer in their children; (b) to examine sociodemographic and psychosocial variables associated with change in distress over time; and (c) to identify distinct subgroups of mothers whose patterns and trajectories of adjustment can be distinguished according to available predictor data. Methods: Two hundred and twelve mothers at seven sites were assessed just following their child's diagnosis, and again 3 months and 6 months later. Primary outcomes included measures of mood disturbance, depressive symptoms, and symptoms of posttraumatic stress. Results: Overall, mothers demonstrated a pattern of mildly elevated negative affectivity and posttraumatic symptomatology initially, with steady improvements evident at 3- and 6-month follow-up. Distinct adjustment trajectories were evident within the sample as a whole, indicating subgroups of mothers with high-declining, moderate-stable, and low-stable distress levels. Conclusions: These findings highlight considerable resilience among mothers facing the stress of childhood cancer. Intervention efforts aimed at reducing maternal distress might best be targeted towards the subgroup of mothers who may be predicted to exhibit the highest level of distress.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)771-782
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Pediatric Psychology
Issue number7
StatePublished - May 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Childhood cancer
  • Mothers
  • Psychosocial adjustment


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