Does a Childhood Cancer Diagnosis Negatively Affect Marriage? Study Indicates the Answer is No

The diagnosis of cancer in a child can be devastating to parents and other loved ones, but in a recent study from Denmark, a childhood cancer diagnosis did not appear to impact parents’ risk of separation or divorce or affect future family planning. The findings are published early online in CANCER, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society (ACS).

Perhaps no news is as devastating to a family as the child being diagnosed with cancer. Such a diagnosis can cause feelings of fear and uncertainty among parents and test them both financially and emotionally. However, a new study finds that such a diagnosis does not appear to affect parents’ risk of separation or divorce, nor does it affect future family planning. The findings appear online in the journal CANCER – a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society (ACS).

To gauge the impact of childhood cancer on parental relationships, the investigators assessed data from several registries in Denmark, linking information on parents of children diagnosed with cancer in 1982-2014. They evaluated 7,066 children and 12,418 case parents with 10 comparison parents of children without cancer (69,993 children and 125,014 comparison parents). Subsequently, parents were followed until 10 years after diagnosis, separation or divorce, death, emigration, or the end of 2017, whichever came first.

According to the results, parents of children with cancer had a 4% lower risk of separation and an 8% lower risk of divorce compared with parents of children without cancer. Among parents of children with cancer, those who were younger, had less education, and were unemployed had elevated risks for separation and divorce. Risks were also higher among parents of children diagnosed at a younger age. Moreover, the results showed that childhood cancer experience did not negatively affect parents’ future family planning in Denmark.


Luzius Mader, PhD, of the Danish Cancer Society Research Center, and the study’s lead investigator, said in a press release: “Currently, family support services are largely limited to the child’s in-patient treatment including support by hospital staff such as social workers or psycho-oncologists as well as through community organizations; however, while more general support services such as marital counselling are widely available, cancer-specific family support services are often lacking after the child’s treatment.”