The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
RM conceived the research, carried out the literature review, led on the design of the study, was responsible for the data collection and initial analysis, and read and commented on all drafts of the manuscript and approved the final manuscript. JC contributed to the design of the study, participated in its co-ordination, carried out further analysis and drafted the manuscript. CH contributed to the design of the study, participated in its coordination, read and commented on all drafts of the manuscript and approved the final manuscript.
Most studies report that being parents of a child with cancer is a stressful experience, but these have tended to focus on mothers and few have included both parents. Moreover, studies have focussed on families in Western countries and none have been published examining the psychological outcomes for parents living in an Arabic country.
This research explores the stress levels of Jordanian parents caring for a child with cancer in order to identify the psychological needs of parents in this environment and to explore how mothers and fathers stress levels might differ.
The study was carried out in Jordan using the Perceived Stress Scale 10-items (PSS10). The questionnaire was completed by 300 couples with a child who has cancer and a comparison group of 528 couples where the children do not have any serious illness. Multivariate backward regression analysis was carried out.
Analysis adjusting for spousal stress and sociodemographic predictors revealed that stress levels of mothers with a child who had cancer remained significantly higher than mothers whose children did not have any serious illness (p < 0.001). However, having a child with cancer did not show a significant association with the fathers’ reported stress scores (p = 0.476) when spousal stress was in the model, but was highly significant once that was removed (p < 0.001).
Parental stress was analysed for those with a child who has cancer and in models which included spouse’s stress scores, sociodemographic and cancer-related predictors 64 % of the variance was explained for mothers (adjusted R2 = 0.64, p < 0.001) and fathers (adjusted R2 = 0.64, p < 0.001). Models excluding spousal stress scores explained just 26 % of the variance for fathers and 22 % for mothers.
This is the first study into the psychological outcomes for parents living in an Arabic country who care for a child with cancer. Both mothers and fathers with a child diagnosed with cancer reported higher stress levels than those from the normal Jordanian parent population. Mothers and fathers of children with cancer reported significantly different levels of stress to each other but models reveal significant contributions of the stress score of fathers upon mothers, and vice versa. The findings provide evidence of the need for psychological support to be developed for families caring for a child with cancer in Jordan.