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Comprehensive Handbook of Childhood Cancer and Sickle Cell DiseaseA Biopsychosocial Approach$
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Ronald T. Brown

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780195169850

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780195169850.001.0001

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Peer, Friendship Issues, and Emotional Well-Being

Peer, Friendship Issues, and Emotional Well-Being

(p.100) 6 Peer, Friendship Issues, and Emotional Well-Being
Comprehensive Handbook of Childhood Cancer and Sickle Cell Disease

Bernard F. Fuemmeler

Larry L. Mullins

Oxford University Press

The assertion that social relationships contribute to a child’s psychological adjustment, health, and overall well-being is commonly accepted and supported by numerous investigations in the clinical child literature (Erdley, Nangle, Newman, & Carpenter, 2001). A wide variety of social phenomena have been examined, including the association between social and emotional adjustment, social network structure, how children are perceived and accepted by their peer group, and children’s ability to establish friendships and close relationships. Given the importance of peer relationships to emotional well-being, it is surprising that this subject has not received greater attention in the pediatric psycho-oncology literature. Understanding children’s social relationships in the context of cancer is important for four primary reasons. First, many aspects related to having cancer and undergoing treatment for cancer, such as school absence, fatigue, interruptions in play and daily activities, changes in physical appearance, strict medical regimens and their associated adverse side effects, and neurocognitive impairments can increase children’s risk for social adjustment problems. Second, positive peer relationships and social support may facilitate the adjustment of children to the experience of cancer. Third, although understudied in the pediatric literature, having positive social support from peers and friends could potentially influence the course of cancer by enhancing the functioning of the neuroendocrine and immune systems. Finally, with a broader understanding of the relevance of social relationships among children with cancer, targeted interventions can be developed and evaluated for their role on outcomes related to adjustment, quality of life, and mediating mechanisms influencing mortality and morbidity. This chapter provides a general overview of the literature related to the role that peers and friendships have on adjustment and presents a review of the relationship of social support to adjustment and health outcomes. The impact of cancer on peer relationships and friendships also is discussed. The chapter concludes with a presentation of extant literature on interventions that have been developed to promote social adjustment and a discussion of future directions. To begin, a description is provided of the terminology and how social processes are often conceptualized. Such information is presented as a heuristic for future research in pediatric psycho-oncology.

Keywords:   aggressive behavior, friendships, immune system, peer acceptance, school absence, stress-immune response relationship

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