2012 Grantees

Sheri Robb

Stories and Music for Parents and Young Children with Cancer: A Clinical Feasibility Study

July 1, 2012- June 30, 2013

Palliative care is a comprehensive system of care that provides comfort care, pain and symptom management, as well as psychosocial support to patients/families with potentially life-threatening or chronic illnesses. Emotional distress experienced by parents and young children with cancer during treatment is a prevalent and persistent problem that impacts family functioning, parent-child interaction, and quality of life. In the longer-term, this acute emotional distress is related to traumatic stress symptoms after treatment ends. These families require palliative care interventions to manage acute treatment distress and prevent psychosocial problems during survivorship; yet no family-based, distress management interventions have simultaneously addressed the interrelated needs of parents and young children with cancer. For young children, play is a means for communicating about and working through stressful situations. Music-based play interventions are particularly promising because music: 1) is a naturally occurring parent-child activity; 2) provides structure to support parent-child interactions during stressful hospitalizations; 3) positively influences mood; and 4) is easily integrated into family routines. Our previous research found that a therapist-led Active Music Engagement (AME) intervention reduced emotional distress in young children hospitalized for cancer treatment. However, the AME needs to be translated into an easily taught, cost-effective, and sustainable intervention to extend its availability. The parent implemented AME (AME+P) uses parent education/coaching on the use of music-based play to neutralize potentially traumatic experiences of cancer treatment (reduce parent/child distress), while supporting the positive growth of families (improve family functioning, parent-child interactions, quality of life). In this two-group, randomized pilot study we will test the AME+P against an attention control condition. We aim to examine: 1) feasibility/acceptability of our proposed study procedures and AME parent implementation, 2) parent and child perspectives about meaningfulness and helpfulness of the intervention, and 3) determine estimates of intervention effects on parent and child outcomes, and potential mediators.