Good communication with the doctor treating their child for cancer improves parental satisfaction with their role in decisions

Research Activities, December 2011, No. 376

Most parents of children in their first year of cancer treatment participate in decisionmaking to the extent that they wish. However, nearly one-fourth hold a more passive role than they would like, according to a new study of 192 parents of youngsters with childhood cancer. It further found that a parent's satisfaction with their role in decisionmaking did not depend on whether the doctor accurately identified the parent's preferred role, but depended instead on whether the parent perceived that doctor-parent communication was high-quality.

The researchers found that 66 percent of the parents studied wanted a collaborative decisionmaking process with their child's oncologist and 64 percent said they had their preferred role in decisionmaking. The 70 parents who did not have their preferred decisionmaking roles were likely to have more passive roles than desired (67 percent). Even when the doctor correctly identified the parent's desired involvement level, parents were no more likely to have their preferred role.

Parents who felt that communication with their child's oncologist was high-quality were 61 percent less likely to hold a more passive decisionmaking role than they wished. Also, parents who held more passive roles than desired were 54 percent less likely to trust the doctor's judgments. The findings were based on a survey of 194 responses of 276 eligible parents of children in the first year of treatment for childhood cancer between April 2004 and September 2005, as well as the children's physicians (20 of 21 responded). The study was funded in part by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (T32 HS00063).

More details are in "Parents' roles in decision making for children with cancer in the first year of cancer treatment," by Jennifer W. Mack, M.D., M.P.H., Joanne Wolfe, M.D., M.P.H., E. Francis Crook, Sc.D., and others in the May 2011 Journal of Clinical Oncology 29(15), pp. 2085-2090.

Current as of December 2011
Internet Citation: Good communication with the doctor treating their child for cancer improves parental satisfaction with their role in decisions: Research Activities, December 2011, No. 376. December 2011. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://www.ahrq.gov/news/newsletters/research-activities/dec11/1211RA17.html