The Potential Role of Benefit and Burden Finding in School Engagement of Young Leukemia Survivors: An Exploratory Study

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Tougas AM, Jutras S, Bigras M, Tourigny M. (2016). The potential role of benefit and burden finding in school engagement of young leukemia survivors: An exploratory study. Child: Care, Health and Development. 42(1): 68-75.

Background : Childhood cancer may radically change the daily lives of young survivors, particularly in school. Depending on the sense they derive from the experience of illness, survivors may go through profound transformations in the way they approach life. Methods : This exploratory study reports on school engagement of cancer survivors by examining their perceptions of benefits and burdens in relation to their illness. Forty‐nine young Q uebecers, previously diagnosed and treated for leukaemia, completed a questionnaire measuring their school engagement and participated in an interview focusing on the impact of cancer on their lives. Perceptions with regard to the presence and types of benefits and burdens were described and examined in light of participants’ characteristics. An analysis of variance explored whether the presence/absence of benefits and burdens were associated with participants’ scores regarding school engagement. Results : Most participants mentioned benefits from having had cancer, and in particular benefits at an interpersonal level. Half of the participants mentioned burdens, mainly of a physical and psychological nature. Significant correlations indicated that (i ) the older the survivors were, the more likely they were to report benefits in terms of qualities and strengths of character; (ii ) the more time had elapsed since their diagnosis, the more survivors were likely to report psychological types of burdens; and (iii ) children from single‐parent families reported more frequently having appreciated social or recreational activities compared with children from two‐parent families. One main effect indicated that school engagement was greater for survivors who perceived the presence of benefits. An interaction effect revealed that the perception of both benefits and burdens predicts the highest scores of school engagement. Conclusions : While the results reveal the promising potential that an optimistic yet realistic disposition has in regard to school engagement, more research is necessary to further our understanding of such a disposition.