A study from Denmark published in the American Cancer Society journal CANCER reports that having a child with cancer does not increase parents’ risk of separation or divorce or affect future family planning. While the study only addresses the emotional impact on families in Denmark, it speaks to the need for the continued support of the family during such troubling times every part of the world.
The study analyzed data from Danish registries that gathered information on families with children with cancer from 1982-2014. The parents of these children were followed until 10 years after the children’s diagnoses, monitoring for separation or divorce. These families results’ were then compared to families with children without cancer. The study was led by Luzius Mader, Ph.D., from the Danish Cancer Society Research Center.
"Currently, family support services are largely limited to the child's in-patient treatment including support by hospital staff such as social workers or psycho-oncologists as well as through community organizations; however, while more general support services such as marital counseling are widely available, cancer-specific family support services are often lacking after the child's treatment," comments Dr. Mader.
The study’s findings showed that, interestingly, parents of children with cancer had a four percent lower risk of separation and an eight percent lower risk of divorce compared with parents of children without cancer.
Within the group of parents of children with cancer, the results showed that certain demographics were at elevated risk for separation and divorce, namely younger and less educated parents, as well as unemployed parents and those who had children that were diagnosed at a younger age.
Another unexpected finding from the study was that having a child with cancer did not impede families in Denmark from planning to have more children or postpone such family planning decisions.
This study showed that for families in Denmark, having a child with cancer was not associated with an overall adverse impact on parents' risk of separation or divorce and future family planning. The authors urge medical practitioners to share these results with their patients’ families.