Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Chair(s)

Clinton E. Field


Clinton E. Field


M. Scott DeBerard


Gretchen G. Peacock


David M. Stein


J. Dennis Odell


Cancer is currently the leading cause of death by disease in children under the age of 15 in the US. While the number of childhood cancer survivors continues to grow, psychological research on this population has lagged. Existing research on the psychosocial effects of childhood cancer is marked by inconsistent conclusions as well as methodological limitations. However, the effect of childhood cancer on social functioning is one area with relatively more consistency. Existing research suggests that childhood cancer can lead to deficits in prosocial skills as well as the emergence of social problems.

The present study investigated individual change in social functioning for five children diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) over the first year of treatment compared to healthy control peers. This investigation sought to answer the following research questions.

  1. Following diagnosis and during the first year of treatment, do children with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) display diminished levels of prosocial skills?
  2. Following diagnosis and during the first year of treatment, do children with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) display increased levels of social problems?
  3. Do children with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) display patterns of social functioning that are different relative to control children during their first year of treatment?

Children with cancer demonstrated a decrease in social activity as well as an unexpected moderate increase in social skills not demonstrated by healthy control children. If substantial future research supports these initial findings, encouraging data could be presented to families of children with cancer. The knowledge that a diagnosis of cancer is not equivalent to likely future social deficits may allay parent and child concerns, and may allow for more natural, less stressful, interactions throughout the cancer experience. This current research was unfunded.




This work made publicly available electronically on June 4, 2012.

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