Publication Date



Open access

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)


Psychology (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

F. Daniel Armstrong

Second Committee Member

Michael Antoni

Third Committee Member

Kristin Lindahl

Fourth Committee Member

Annette LaGreca

Fifth Committee Member

Julio Barredo


Psychotropic medications commonly used with children have been associated with side effects significant enough to warrant warnings from the Food and Drug Administration. The risks of these side effects are potentially increased in children who are long-term survivors of childhood cancer because of damage to the heart and central nervous system (CNS) due to chemotherapy and radiation therapy. There are few empirical studies addressing whether children treated for cancer have greater exposure to psychotropic medications than the general population, the reasons for use of psychotropic medications in cancer survivors, or whether risks associated with cancer treatment are considered when psychotropic medications are used. The specific aims of this study were: (1) to examine the prevalence of psychotropic medication use among children treated for cancer, (2) to obtain descriptive data regarding variables associated with medication usage, and (3) to develop a model to predict which children are likely to be prescribed psychotropic medication. A cross-sectional sample of 69 children, ages two to 17 years, who were undergoing treatment or had successfully completed treatment for leukemia/lymphoma, central nervous system (CNS) tumors, or other non-CNS related cancers were recruited. Caregivers completed measures of psychosocial functioning, medication use, and developmental history. Medical history was also obtained. Results indicated that 15% of subjects were taking psychotropic medication, specifically stimulants and antidepressants. The Classification and Regression Trees (CART) algorithm was used to develop a predictive model. Results indicated gender, age, and presence of school difficulty explained a total of 46% of the variance in psychotropic medication use in the pediatric cancer population; children treated for cancer who were male, age 10 or older and had reported school difficulty were more likely to be prescribed psychotropic medication. No cancer variables were found to influence psychotropic medication use. Several limitations likely influenced results including limited sample size, inclusion of multiple diseases in the non-CNS involved solid tumor diagnosis group, and recruitment limited to three sites. Results indicate a need for continuous examination of psychotropic medication use and possible side effects in the childhood cancer population.


Childhood Cancer; Psychotropic Medication