This study involves a small sample of parents, too small to draw definite conclusions though some interesting results need to be discussed. The main findings were that SOC is not stable over time. Moreover, mothers had significantly weaker total SOC scores than did fathers for Manageability and Meaningfulness at time-points 1 and 2. However, for Comprehensibility no significant differences between mothers and fathers were obtained at any of the four time-points.
Results indicated a gender difference in SOC score, with fathers reporting it higher (although not statistically significantly at every time point) than mothers. This is corroborated in other studies. Eriksson and Lindström [24
] found in their review of the SOC scale that men usually report a slightly higher SOC score than women. However, studies in “normal” Swedish populations have not indicated any gender differences in SOC [25
]. This kind of inconsistency has also been reported when comparing mothers and fathers of children with intellectual disabilities [16
The present work showed that SOC in the sample studied was not stable over time. Whether SOC is stable over time (in life) has been questioned in several studies e.g. [11
]. It seems to be a flexible construct responding to changes in life situations [11
]. In our study it also seemed that fathers’ SOC score decreased during the latter part of the child’s cancer trajectory while the opposite is true for mothers.
The results also highlight that mothers had significant weaker score than did the fathers on the components Manageability and Meaningfulness at time-points 1 and 2. Reay and co-workers [29
] described mothers are often the one at home taking care of the child and in contrast fathers taking care of his job, earning money. The parent responsible for caring for the child at home often feels exhausted as they have to deal with hospital visits, siblings, child raising and the household generally. They can also feel locked in to the sick child and the home and they look forward to moments where they could think of something else and socialize with adults [30
]. This may be the cause of mothers having a lower score on Manageability as well as Meaningfulness.
The total sample, especially the mothers, decreased in the component Comprehensibility between time-points 1 and 2. Diagnosis of cancer in a child undermines the vision of a long and happy life [2
]. The family has to deal with the loss of a healthy child as well as to live with the uncertainty which the disease brings [31
]. Björk et al. [5
] reported that parents of children newly diagnosed with cancer found that the situation was unreal and they wanted to escape from it. They lost foothold in life as well as their sense of security and they became vulnerable. It seems reasonable to believe that those findings are reflected in the results from the present study.
It is therefore important for health care professionals associated with these families to pay attention to each individual mother’s and father’s experiences and needs. One useful approach is family centred care (FCC) defined as “a way of caring for children and their families within health services which ensures that care is planned around the whole family, not just the individual child/person, and in which all the family members are recognized as care recipients” [32
], p. 1318. To communicate with the family as a whole can be beneficial for both the family and the staff [33