Social work

experience and methods

A parent with oncological illness: experiences of teenagers in the context of children rights


In the article, a qualitative case study is presented, analysing the experience of people who, being teenagers, witnessed the oncological illness of their parents. Six participants (3 men, 3 women, ages 18–22), who as teenagers were living with a parent with cancer, were recruited for the study. Five of the respondents lost their parent due to the illness. Because of the parent's illness, the life model of the family changed. The ill parent leaves for a long time for treatment, experiences pain and discomfort, and needs care and nursing, when the illness advances. Teenagers experienced strong and deep emotions seeing their parents in pain. The teenagers lost their free time and sometimes quit school in order to earn money. The sick parents did not talk about their diagnosis and illness; most of them did not directly inform their teenage children about it and some were hiding it. Because of the tensions in the family, sometimes stemming from the time before illness because of parent's alcoholism, abuse, or neglect, and sometimes related to the illness itself, the members were not able to share their feelings and experiences. In spite of physical and psychic immaturity, teenagers took roles of a nurse (nursed the sick parent), of a supporter (supported other family members), and of the head of the family. Respondents named their family and extended family members and friends as their support in the time of parent's illness. Article 27 of Convention on the Rights of the Child states that countries recognize the right of every child to a standard of living adequate for the child's physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development. When the psychosocial support for the family is not available from the extended family members and is not provided by the state, the rights of teenagers are violated .


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