The diagnosis and treatment of pediatric cancer are major stressors that interrupt daily life and lead to distress for children diagnosed with the disease and their parents. Factors such as parent-child communication about the cancer and the child's level of cognitive development may influence how children cope with the diagnosis and treatment of cancer in several ways. The proposed research will examine how children's cognitive development, specifically their level of executive function, is related to their coping and communication about their illness. Further, the proposed project will examine the relation between parental communication style and child's level of executive function. Specifically, the proposed research will examine the degree to which parents tailor their communication to their child's level of executive function when discussing the child's cancer. This proposal focuses on working memory and cognitive flexibility, domains of executive function that are important in understanding and managing complex information and solving problems. Using cognitive assessments, direct observations, and self-report measures, we will assess executive functioning, parent-child communication, and child coping and emotional distress in 120 children ages 8-17 diagnosed with cancer. The relations between child executive function, parent-child communication, and child coping and distress will be examined. Lay summary: This project examines how parents and children communicate about cancer when a child is diagnosed with cancer. Specifically, we will examine the relation between children's coping and mental development in relation to parent-child communication about cancer. Findings from this study will contribute to better ways to help children and their parents cope with the diagnosis and treatment of cancer.
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