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DOI: 10.1177/15347354231218266; PMCID: PMC10750508


OBJECTIVE: This trial examined the effects of proximal/distal mediators and moderators of an Active Music Engagement (AME) intervention on young child/parent distress, quality of life, and family function outcomes.

METHODS: Child/parent dyads (n = 125) were randomized to AME or Audio-storybooks attention control condition. Each group received 3 sessions with a credentialed music therapist for 3 consecutive days with data collection at baseline, post-intervention (T2), and 30-days later (T3). Potential proximal mediators included within session child and parent engagement. Potential distal mediators included changes in perceived family normalcy, parent self-efficacy, and independent use of play materials. Potential moderators included parent/child distress with prior hospitalizations, parent traumatic stress screener (PCL-6), and child age. Outcomes included child emotional distress and quality of life; parent emotion, traumatic stress symptoms (IES-R), well-being; and family function. Mediation effects were estimated using ANCOVA, with indirect effects estimated using the percentile bootstrap approach. Moderation effects were tested by including appropriate interaction terms in models.

RESULTS: No significant mediation effects were observed. Child distress with prior hospitalizations moderated AME effects for IES-R intrusion subscale scores at T2 (P = .01) and avoidance subscale scores at T3 (P = .007). Traumatic stress screener scores (PCL-6) moderated intervention effects for IES-R hyperarousal subscale scores at T2 (P = .01). There were no moderation effects for child age.

CONCLUSIONS: AME is a promising intervention for mitigating traumatic stress symptoms and supporting well-being in parents of children with cancer, particularly for parents who screen high for traumatic stress and whose children are more highly distressed with hospitalization.

Journal Title

Integrative cancer therapies



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MeSH Keywords

Child; Humans; Child, Preschool; Music; Quality of Life; Parents; Emotions; Neoplasms


cancer; child; hospitalization; music therapy; neoplasms; parents; psychological distress; quality of life


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