Date of Degree

5-2019

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Psychology

Advisor

Jennifer S. Ford

Committee Members

Michael A. Hoyt

Joel Erblich

Cheryl Carmichael

Danielle Berke

Subject Categories

Clinical Psychology | Health Psychology | Psychology

Keywords

Cancer, Young Adult, Relational Processes, Technology-Related Communication, Psychological Well-Being, Intimacy

Abstract

Despite decades of studies reporting positive associations of social support with cancer-related quality of life, little attention has been paid to understanding how relational qualities (e.g., self-disclosure, perceived support member disclosure, perceived support member responsiveness) of cancer-related support exchanges might influence psychological adjustment and intimacy among young adults with cancer. Further, little attention has been paid to understanding how young adults with cancer communicate with their social support networks among different modes of communication [(face-to-face vs. technology-related (e.g., text message, social media)] remains poorly understood. Questionnaire data from 45 young adults with cancer combines these two separate but related literatures of support-related communication and technology-based communication to explore young adult cancer-related communication. The goal of this dissertation is to examine how aspects of relational disclosure and responsiveness about a cancer-related concern recently discussed with a member of one’s social support network may moderate the relationship between face-to-face vs. technology-related (e.g., text message, social media) communication to influence psychological adjustment and intimacy. No significant differences were found on psychological adjustment and intimacy across different modes of communication. Mode of communication moderated the relationship between self-disclosure and functional well-being and intimacy. Young adults communicating about a recent cancer-related concern face-to-face and reporting a low amount of self-disclosure exhibited relatively greater functional well-being whereas young adults communicating via technology-related communication and reporting a high amount of self-disclosure reported greater intimacy. A small pilot study utilizing a biopsychosocial approach to analyzing dyadic face-to-face and text message content expressed by young adults with cancer and their support network is also presented as a means to highlight how these processes can be experimentally studied. Study findings have psychological, behavioral, and clinical implications for future studies related to young adult cancer survivorship and suggest that communication via technology-related methods might not be detrimental to well-being. This dissertation provides new insight and a deeper understanding into the interaction of relational processes and differing communication modalities on adjustment among young adults with cancer.

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