Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


Tumors in children-Psychological aspects, Family social work, Social work with the terminally ill, Adjustment (Psychology), Parents of terminally ill children-Psychology, Parents of terminally ill children-Services for, Cancer-Patients-Psychology, Cancer-Patients-Family relationships, Pediatric oncology, Coping, Culture, Health care professionals, Familial


This research provides insight into social workers' understanding and perceptions of coping behaviors in families faced with a pediatric cancer diagnosis. The three research questions that guided this study were: (1) Do clinicians observe/perceive cultural distinctions in coping behaviors among families dealing with a pediatric cancer diagnosis? (2) How does a clinician's own culture impact his or her assessments of a family's coping abilities? and (3) How can clinicians gain better cultural sensitivity and cultural competence in working with diverse populations? Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 12 social workers who were working in pediatric oncology centers across the United States. Social workers in this study perceived culture to play a significant role in families' coping behaviors; and that coping behaviors such as maintaining independence, activity modification, maintaining a positive attitude, maintaining a sense of humor, spirituality or prayer, denial, time with family and friends, support groups, maintaining routines, gaining information, and nutritional management were observed differences between families. Findings also showed cultural distinctions between Caucasian social workers and social workers of color in their reporting of family coping behaviors. These distinctions were found in use of terminology, presentation of information, and acceptance of family coping behaviors. A social worker's own culture and lens of understanding appeared to impact his or her assessment of a family's coping behavior. The outcomes from this study suggest the need for improved cultural sensitivity and cultural competence among social workers who work with culturally diverse population groups. Strategies and tools for developing and becoming more culturally aware were recommended. Some of these recommendations include integrating cultural awareness and cultural activities across teaching curricula, instituting culturally sensitive and culturally competent trainings in the workforce, worker case collaborations as a teaching tool, and open discussions and reflection of self as a service provider in relation to others. The need for more culturally diverse healthcare professionals in human services and communities also were recommended.




iii, 45 p. : col. ill. Thesis (M.S.W.)-Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Mass., 2010. Includes bibliographical references (p. 37-39)