Psychological health of young children undergoing treatment for Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia: A cross-sectional study
Introduction: Research on the psychological health of children with cancer have tended to focus on older children. In India, studies in paediatric psycho-oncology are scant. This study examined the psychological health of young children undergoing treatment for Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL).
Method: Sample comprised 20 children hospitalized for treatment of ALL, aged 4 to 8 years, and an equal number of gender and age-matched healthy peers, along with their respective mothers. This was a cross-sectional study, employing consecutive sampling, with participants from the lower socioeconomic background. Tools used were (i) Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) to assess psychiatric disturbances, (ii) Feelings Cards (FC) to examine subjective current emotional state and, (iii) Teddy Bears' Picnic (TBP) to examine personal constructs.
Results: Children with ALL were reported on SDQ to display more behavioral disturbances (total difficulties: U = 97.50, p ≤ .01; conduct problems: U = 97.50, p ≤ .01; peer problems: U = 88.50, p ≤ .01). However, median scores were within the normative range, comparable to the general population. On FC, more children with ALL expressed negative emotional states (cancer: 50%, healthy: 10%; FEP (1) = 7.62, p ≤ .01). On TBP, there was lesser self-perceived helplessness in children with ALL (U = 129.00, p < 0.05).
Conclusion: The psychological health of young children undergoing treatment for ALL is comparable to healthy children, with disturbances being expected responses to a challenging situation. Further research is warranted with larger samples and across stages of child development.