This article reviews a broad range of clinical and research material investigating the coping processes of individuals and families, particularly in response to a serious illness or handicapping condition in a child family member. The interactive effects of family and illness are established; then several theoretical, descriptive and empirical theories of coping are presented. Coping responses of family members and the family unit as a whole to minor illness, to chronic illness and handicapping conditions, to childhood cancer, and to death in childhood are all discussed. The article concludes with a discussion of the implications and benefits for the physician and other health care professionals in adopting a family-oriented treatment approach.
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