Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Counseling Psychology

First Advisor

Marilyn Stern

Second Advisor

Suzanne Mazzeo

Third Advisor

Leroy Thacker

Fourth Advisor

Kamar Godder

Fifth Advisor

Matthew Bitsko


OBJECTIVE: Pediatric cancer treatment is stressful for caregivers. Research has indicated that problem-solving coping reduces stress related to caregiving. The current study examines the effects of a problem-solving intervention (Parent Empowerment Program), based on Problem-Solving Therapy, for caregivers of children on active cancer treatment. It was hypothesized that participants who received the intervention would show decreases in caregiving stress and posttraumatic stress symptoms, and increases in problem-solving ability between baseline and post-test assessments compared to those who received an attention control. METHOD: Thirty-nine caregivers (all parents; 48% participation rate) participated. The majority were mothers (90%), married or partnered (59%) and Caucasian (56%). Participants were randomly assigned to condition (intervention vs. attention control) after completing baseline questionnaires. Participants who received the intervention received one session of problem solving intervention and a follow-up session. Those in the attention control condition received two general support sessions. Participants were assessed at baseline, one month after the second session, and three months after the second session. RESULTS: There were no effects of the intervention on any of the outcome variables when data for all participants was examined. However, there was a significant effect of the intervention on problem-solving ability among participants of children between 4-16 weeks post-diagnosis. CONCLUSIONS: There were many factors that contributed to the lack of effect, including small sample size, variations in time since diagnosis, low participation rates, and limited number of sessions. Future studies should target parents who are under the highest levels of stress and increase the intensity of sessions. However, the finding that the intervention has an effect on problem-solving ability early in the treatment trajectory replicates previous research and has potential clinical utility.


© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

May 2012