Parent Involvement and Neurocognitive Functioning in Childhood Cancer Survivors
Sunita K Patel, Beth Baumeister Peters, Terece Bell, Julie Verner, Ernest R Katz, Mary N Baron, J Galen Buckwalter
Background: Despite speculation that environmental factors, such as family factors, may influence functional outcomes in children who have received neurotoxic treatments for cancer, there has been minimal research in this area. The importance of parental behaviors in support of their child’s learning and cognitive performance has been well-established across a wide range of populations and ages. To date, no study has investigated these parental behaviors in reference to outcomes in children at risk for cancer-related neurocognitive dysfunction. We hypothesized that parental “pro-learning” behaviors would be positively associated with cognitive outcomes in children diagnosed with cancers involving the Central Nervous system (CNS) or who have had intensive CNS therapy. Methods: Relationships between parental behaviors and their child’s cognitive performance (IQ) were evaluated using a revised version of an assessment tool developed to identify the presence and frequency of parenting behaviors that promote learning. A sample of 56 parents of childhood cancer survivors ages 6 through 18 and their children were evaluated. Associations between various clinical and parental factors were examined. Results: ANCOVA results showed significant differences in IQ performance based on level of parent involvement for children older than age 3 years at cancer diagnosis. IQ scores for children with higher levels of parent pro-learning behaviors were approximately 12 points higher compared to lower levels. Child’s age at diagnosis, cranial radiation, and parents’ prolearning behaviors at home were significant predictors of child FSIQ in a multivariate regression model. Parent socioeconomic status was significantly associated with parents’ belief in their ability to help their child with learning and school success. Conclusions: The present findings provide preliminary support for the hypotheses that environmental factors, such as parent involvement, may be associated with functional outcomes in children at risk for cancer-related neurocognitive dysfunction, and highlight the need for more research in this area.