Aims: Pediatric cancer treatments elicit negative affect in parents. Prior research suggests that the tendency to analyze one’s negative experiences from a self-distanced, observer perspective is associated with less short-term negative affect (Adyuk & Kross, 2008). The present study expanded this research to parents of pediatric cancer patients. Specifically, we asked whether the tendency to adopt a distancing perspective might moderate the impact of trait anxiety on parents’ negative affect during their children’s treatments for cancer.
Methods: Participants were 95 parents of children between 3 and 12, currently undergoing outpatient cancer treatments at two comprehensive cancer centers. At entry to the study, parents rated how they reflected on their children’s past treatments (saw the memory as close (1) or as distant (7)); and later completed a measure of Trait Anxiety. Parents subsequently completed measures of state anxiety and personal distress immediately before three of their children’s treatments and of negative mood immediately after treatments. Affect was averaged across treatments.
Results: Trait anxiety and self-perspective were unrelated. Trait anxiety was positively associated with all negative affect measures (p’s</=.04); distancing was negatively associated with personal distress and negative mood (p’s.<05). Hay’s & Matthes (2009) MODPROBE was used to analyze trait anxiety by distancing interactions. R2s for all regressions were significant (p’s<.01), as were the interactions (p’s<.03). If parents reported a distancing perspective on prior memories, differences in trait anxiety had little impact on negative affect before or after treatments; if they did not distance, higher trait anxiety was associated with more negative affect.
Conclusions: Parent affective reactions to pediatric cancer treatments are associated with subsequent PTSS. Self-perspectives that parents spontaneously adopt when thinking about children’s treatment can impact affective reactions to treatments and mitigate the impact of dispositions on these reactions. Findings suggest the potential value of interventions that target parents’ self-perspectives.