Having a child with cancer: The impact on couple relationships, belief systems and values

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Marriage and Family Therapy


Mary Ann Middlemiss


Family therapy, Couple relationships, Marriage counseling, Childhood cancer, Marital therapy

Subject Categories

Family, Life Course, and Society | Medicine and Health | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Sociology


The purpose of this project was to understand the experience of couples through open-ended interviews directed at better understanding how couple relationships, belief systems, and values are impacted by having a child with cancer. More specifically, the study focused on couple bonding and connection in relation to dealing with a child who has cancer.

Introduction . Cancer has broad reaching affects for both the individual patient and the family system in which the individual lives. It affects everyone around the person who has cancer, causing shifts in the way people orient themselves toward the patient. While many studies have focused on the effect of cancer on children, on the family as a whole, or on emotional adjustment of parents, very few have centered directly on the couple dynamics. In this study, the researcher is more interested in hearing the story of the couple to understand their impression of what has brought them closer together and what they use to remain connected when their child has cancer.

Purpose and intent . The purpose of this research study is to better understand how couple relationships, belief systems and values are impacted by having a child with cancer. The intent is to better describe the experience of the couple, both what allows the couple to remain connected, barriers to connection, and their general experience of having a child with cancer.

Methodology . Since this research aimed to uncover the meaning of couple's relational experiences, a qualitative methodology was chosen.


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