Social competence and mother-child interactions of preschool cancer patients

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Committee Member

F. Daniel Armstrong - Committee Chair

Second Committee Member

Donald K. Routh - Committee Member


Twenty preschool cancer patients were individually matched with 20 healthy control subjects based on age, sex, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and preschool experience. Part I of the study involved maternal report of childrearing techniques and report of child behaviors related to social competency. The cancer group did not differ from the controls on any of these variables. Part II involved direct observations of mother-child interactions in a free play and structured play setting. As predicted, there was a trend for children with cancer to exhibit lower levels of competent behaviors than the control children. They also engaged in more socially inappropriate behaviors. There were no significant differences in the mothers' behaviors between the groups. However, patterns in the data would lead us to suspect that, with a larger sample size, mothers of cancer patients might treat their children as less competent and more incompetent. All mothers exhibited effective strategies to teach their children self-control. The type of play condition had significant main effects on mother and child behaviors of both groups. This study highlights the need to include direct observations with maternal report when investigating child behaviors. The conditions in which behaviors are observed should also be considered carefully.


Psychology, Developmental; Psychology, Clinical

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