Document Type

Dissertation

Date of Degree

Summer 2012

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Psychological and Quantitative Foundations

First Advisor

John Northup

Second Advisor

Ann Marie McCarthy

Abstract

More adolescents are surviving cancer and being treated outside the hospital-setting, allowing them to return to typical activities of development like attending school. Effective preparation for school re-entry is an important aspect of easing the transition back-to-school following a cancer diagnosis. Previous research has used the terms school re-entry, school re-entry preparation, and school reintegration interchangeably. For the purposes of the current study, school re-entry refers to going back-to-school. School re-entry preparation or interventions refers to the preparatory process implemented for the initial return to school following a cancer diagnosis. Conversely, school reintegration refers to the ongoing or long-term adjustment of the child or adolescent with cancer to the school environment. Research in school re-entry preparation began in the late 1970s, but much is still not well understood about appropriate school re-entry preparation in terms of application, outcome, or the adolescent's needs. The adolescent with cancer's perspective has been grossly neglected in research. Furthermore, current research lacks an operational definition of "successful school re-entry" and knowledge of specific factors associated with positive school re-entry outcomes. Identifying variables that positively impact the school re-entry process is critical to improving and individualizing school re-entry interventions. The current study used an adaption of the Disability-Stress Coping Model (DSC; Wallander & Varni, 1998) to both define school re-entry success and identify potential predictors that may impact school re-entry success. In addition, to obtain a more comprehensive picture of re-entry success, adolescents with cancer rated the success of their back-to-school experiences. The current study asked 85 adolescents with cancer (ages 11 - 19 years) to complete a web-based survey asking about their re-entry experiences and daily functioning. Results provided tentative support for a discrepancy between professional and adolescent re-entry needs/goals. Findings suggest that a subset of adolescents with cancer may be at risk for poor school re-entry/reintegration outcomes, including females, being of lower SES, having certain types of cancer (brain tumors, leukemia), undergoing specific treatments (radiation, chemotherapy), being out of school for longer periods of time, having pre-morbid academic difficulties, and/or having poor social support. Adolescents who demonstrate these risk factors may warrant increased, specialized attention when preparing to return to school. In addition to systemic and within-person factors from the adapted DSC model, findings suggest that developmental characteristics of adolescence must be considered in planning re-entry intervention. Appropriate modifications to school re-entry preparation for adolescents may include utilizing electronic and social media, implementing peer mentors, focusing on reinforcing appropriate social circles, and emphasizing autonomy. More research is needed to understand how to best assist the adolescent with cancer in returning to school.

Keywords

adolescent, neoplasms, oncology, school reentry, School re-entry, school reintegration

Pages

xi, 137 pages

Bibliography

Includes bibliographical references (pages 126-137).

Copyright

Copyright 2012 Chasity Brimeyer

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