Family Functioning and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in Adolescent Survivors of Childhood Cancer

Melissa A. Alderfer, Neha Navsaria, Anne E. Kazak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

139 Scopus citations


This study investigated family functioning and relationships between family functioning and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in adolescent survivors of childhood cancer. To assess family functioning, 144 adolescent cancer survivors 1 to 12 years post-cancer treatment (M = 5.3 years) and their parents completed the Family Assessment Device (FAD). To assess PTSD, adolescents were administered a structured diagnostic interview. Nearly half (47%) of the adolescents, one fourth (25%) of mothers, and one third (30%) of fathers reported poor family functioning, exceeding the clinical cutoff on 4 or more FAD subscales. Families in which the cancer survivor had PTSD (8% of the sample) had poorer functioning than other families in the areas of problem solving, affective responsiveness, and affective involvement. Three fourths of the adolescents with PTSD came from families with categorically poor family functioning. A surprisingly high rate of poor family functioning was reported in these families of adolescent cancer survivors. Adolescents with PTSD were more than 5 times as likely to emerge from a poorly functioning family compared with a well-functioning one. This study provides evidence that family functioning is related to cancer-related posttraumatic reactions in adolescent survivors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)717-725
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Family Psychology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2009


  • adolescents
  • cancer survivors
  • family functioning
  • posttraumatic stress


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