Sources of Social Support: Adolescents With Cancer

Heather B. Haluska

Peggy O. Jessee

Christine M. Nagy

ONF 2007, 29(9), 1317-1324. DOI: 10.1188/02.ONF.1317-1324

Purpose/Objectives: To evaluate how a cancer diagnosis affects adolescents' perceived sources of social support, amount of support needed, and level of satisfaction with support compared to an age-matched, healthy, adolescent group.

Design: Cross-sectional, comparative, nonrandom survey.

Setting: Summer camp for adolescents with cancer and a rural high school in the southeastern United States.

Sample: Adolescents with a diagnosis of cancer (n = 64) and age-matched, healthy adolescents (n = 115).

Methods: Subjects completed the Social Support Questionnaire, Perceived Social Support From Family Scale, Perceived Social Support From Friends Scale, and demographic information forms.

Main Research Variables: Sources of social support, amount of support perceived, and level of satisfaction with support.

Findings: Adolescents with cancer perceived social support coming from both friends and family and reported high levels of support satisfaction from each source. Compared to healthy adolescents, those with cancer reported similar support sources and satisfaction levels; however, adolescents with cancer perceived parental relationships as more supportive.

Conclusions: Similarities between healthy adolescents and those with cancer regarding social support were more prevalent than differences. The social benefits of camp settings for chronically ill children should be explored further.

Implications for Nursing: Nurses and other healthcare professionals should allow adolescents in the healthcare setting every opportunity to maintain their social networks of friends and family by encouraging visitation, providing social opportunities in the hospital, and emphasizing the importance of attending school when medically able.

Jump to a section


    American Cancer Society. (1999). Cancer facts and figures 1999. Atlanta, GA: Author.
    American Cancer Society. (2002). Cancer facts and figures 2001. Atlanta, GA: Author.
    Barrera, M., Jr., & Garrison-Jones, C. (1992). Family and peer social support as specific correlates of adolescent depressive symptoms. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 20, 1-16.
    Benson, B.A., Gross, A.M., & Kellum, G. (1999). The siblings of children with craniofacial anomalies. Children's Health Care, 28(1), 51-68.
    Berk, L.E. (2000). Infants, children, and adolescents (3rd ed.). Boston: Allyn and Bacon.
    Bradbury, K., Janicke, D.M., Riley, A.W., & Finney, J.W. (1999). Predictors of unintentional injuries to school-age children seen in pediatric primary care. Journal of Pediatric Psychology, 24, 423-433.
    Carey, K. (1994). Perceived social support from parents and friends and compliance in adolescents with cystic fibrosis. Unpublished master's thesis, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa.
    Dornbusch, S.M., Peterson, A.C., & Hetherington, E.M. (1991). Projecting the future of research on adolescence. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 1(1), 7-17.
    Dumont, M., & Provost, M.A. (1999). Resilience in adolescents: Protective role of social support, coping strategies, self-esteem, and social activities on experience of stress and depression. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 28, 343-363.
    Furman, W., & Buhrmester, D. (1992). Age and sex differences in perceptions of networks of personal relationships. Child Development, 63, 103-115.
    Hartup, W.W. (1993). Adolescents and their friends. New Directions for Family Development, 60, 3-18.
    Kazak, A.E. (1993). Psychological research in pediatric oncology [Editorial]. Journal of Pediatric Psychology, 18, 313-318.
    Kazak, A.E., & Meadows, A.T. (1989). Families of young adolescents who have survived cancer: Social-emotional adjustment, adaptability, and social support. Journal of Pediatric Psychology, 14, 175-191.
    Kliewer, W. (1997). Children's coping with chronic illness. In S.A. Wolchik & I.N. Sandler (Eds.), Handbook of children's coping: Linking theory and intervention (pp. 275-300). New York: Plenum Press.
    Kostelecky, K.L., & Lempers, J.D. (1998). Stress, family social support, distress, and well-being in high school seniors. Family and Consumer Sciences Research Journal, 27, 125-145.
    Krahn, G.L. (1993). Conceptualizing social support in families of children with special health needs. Family Process, 32, 235-248.
    Larson, W.R., Richards, M.H., Moneta, G., Holmbeck, G., & Duckett, E. (1996). Changes in adolescents' daily interactions with their families from ages 10 to 18: Disengagement and transformation. Developmental Psychology, 32, 744-754.
    Manne, S., & Miller, D. (1998). Social support, social conflict, and adjustment among adolescents with cancer. Journal of Pediatric Psychology, 23, 121-130.
    McFarlane, A.H., Bellisimo, A., Norman, G.R., & Lange, P. (1994). Adolescent depression in a school-based community sample: Preliminary findings on contributing social factors. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 23, 601-620.
    Noll, R.B., Bukowski, W.M., Davies, W.H., Koontz, K., & Kulkarni, R. (1993). Adjustment in the peer system of adolescents with cancer: A two-year study. Journal of Pediatric Psychology, 18, 351-364.
    Procidano, M.E., & Heller, K. (1983). Measures of perceived social support from friends and from family: Three validation studies. American Journal of Community Psychology, 11(1), 1-24.
    Sandler, I.N., Wolchik, S.A., MacKinnon, D., Ayers, T.S., & Roosa, M.W. (1997). Developing linkages between theory and intervention in stress and coping processes. In S.A. Wolchik & I.N. Sandler (Eds.), Handbook of children's coping: Linking theory and intervention (pp. 3-25). New York: Plenum Press.
    Sarason, I.G., Levine, I., Basham, R., & Sarason, B.R. (1983). Assessing social support: The Social Support Questionnaire. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 44, 127-139.
    Selman, R.L. (1980). The growth of interpersonal understanding. New York: Academic Press.
    Stevens, R., & Pihl, R.O. (1987). Seventh grade students at risk for school failure. Adolescence, 22, 333-345.
    Vannatta, K., Gartstein, M.A., Short, A., & Noll, R.B. (1998). A controlled study of peer relationships of children surviving brain tumors: Teacher, peer, and self-ratings. Journal of Pediatric Psychology, 23, 279-287.
    Varni, J.W., Katz, E.R., Colegrove, R., & Dolgin, M. (1994). Perceived social support and adjustment of children with newly diagnosed cancer. Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, 15(1), 20-26.
    Weekes, D.P., & Kagan, S.H. (1994). Adolescents completing cancer therapy: Meaning, perception, and coping. Oncology Nursing Forum, 21, 663-670.
    Woodgate, R.L. (1998). Adolescents' perspectives of chronic illness: "It's hard." Journal of Pediatric Nursing, 13, 210-223.