Psychosocial assessment of families caring for a child with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, epilepsy or asthma: Psychosocial risk as network of interacting symptoms

Chiara Colliva, Monica Cellini, Francesca Dalla Porta, Martina Ferrari, Barbara Maria Bergamini, Azzurra Guerra, Silvia Di Giuseppe, Annamaria Pinto, Roberto Capasso, Daniela Caprino, Marta Ferrari, Cristina Benatti, Fabio Tascedda, Johanna M C Blom

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The purpose of this study is to assess psychosocial risk across several pediatric medical conditions and test the hypothesis that different severe or chronic pediatric illnesses are characterized by disease specific enhanced psychosocial risk and that risk is driven by disease specific connectivity and interdependencies among various domains of psychosocial function using the Psychosocial Assessment Tool (PAT). In a multicenter prospective cohort study of 195 patients, aged 5-12, 90 diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), 42 with epilepsy and 63 with asthma, parents completed the PAT2.0 or the PAT2.0 generic version. Multivariate analysis was performed with disease as factor and age as covariate. Graph theory and network analysis was employed to study the connectivity and interdependencies among subscales of the PAT while data-driven cluster analysis was used to test whether common patterns of risk exist among the various diseases. Using a network modelling approach analysis, we observed unique patterns of interconnected domains of psychosocial factors. Each pathology was characterized by different interdependencies among the most central and most connected domains. Furthermore, data-driven cluster analysis resulted in two clusters: patients with ALL (89%) mostly belonged to cluster 1, while patients with epilepsy and asthma belonged primarily to cluster 2 (83% and 82% respectively). In sum, implementing a network approach improves our comprehension concerning the character of the problems central to the development of psychosocial difficulties. Therapy directed at problems related to the most central domain(s) constitutes the more rational one because such an approach will inevitably carry over to other domains that depend on the more central function.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e0230194
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Asthma/psychology
  • Caregivers/psychology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Empathy/physiology
  • Epilepsy/psychology
  • Family/psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Parents/psychology
  • Precursor Cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia-Lymphoma/psychology
  • Prospective Studies
  • Psychological Tests
  • Psychometrics/methods


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