Interaction Patterns Between Parents with Advanced Cancer and Their Adolescent Children

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advanced cancer, parental cancer, adolescents, oncology, qualitative methods, cancer


Nursing | Oncology


Objective: Advanced cancer profoundly affects those with the illness and their families. The interaction patterns between parents with advanced cancer and their adolescent children are likely to influence how a family experiences a parent's dying process. There is little information on such interactions. This study aimed to develop an explanatory model that explains interaction patterns between parents with advanced cancer and their adolescent children and to identify strategies to prepare children for their lives after a parent dies.

Methods: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 9 parents with advanced cancer, 7 of their spouses/partners, and 10 of their adolescent children. The interviews were recorded, transcribed verbatim, and analyzed using a constructionist grounded theory approach.

Results: Twenty-six family participants were interviewed. Their main concern was not having enough time together. In response, they described a four-stage process for optimizing the time they had left together: coming to know our time together is limited, spending more time together, extending our time together, and giving up our time together to end the suffering. The adolescents and their ill parents did not change their interaction patterns until they realized their time together was limited by the advanced cancer. Then they spent more time together to make things easier for each other.

Conclusions: Time was of great importance to the parents and adolescents; all the participants structured their stories in relation to the concept of time. The model reflects the dynamic process by which families continuously adapt their relationships in the face of advanced cancer.