Single fatherhood due to cancer, UNC faculty offer support

Cancer is a leading cause of widowed fatherhood in the United States. Faculty with UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Comprehensive Cancer Support Program authored a commentary titled “Single Fatherhood Due to Cancer” in the August issue of the journal Psycho-Oncology outlining challenges these fathers face and future directions to develop supportive interventions for them and their children.

In 2010, UNC Lineberger launched an educational series and support program for single fathers whose wives died from cancer. The monthly dinner meetings are for the fathers, who are encouraged to bring their children. The children are supervised, fed and engage in activities while the fathers meet.

Justin Yopp, PhD, program coordinator and commentary co-author, said, “Newly widowed fathers represent a potentially vulnerable population as they cope with their own grief, their children’s grief, and adjust to the day-to-day demands of being a single parent.  This population of fathers has been largely overlooked in the literature and we know of no previous interventions specifically tailored to their needs.

“The fathers in our support group have told us that they benefitted from the opportunity to meet with and learn from other fathers in their situation.  Our goal now is to develop a research agenda to systematically explore the most effective ways to intervene with these fathers, and our hope is that this publication will spur similar interest from investigators and clinicians.”

Yopp is an assistant professor of psychiatry. His co-author is Don Rosenstein, MD, professor of psychiatry and director of the UNC Comprehensive Cancer Support Program.

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