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The experience of teenagers living with a parent with advanced cancer Brown, Jane E.

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to examine the experience of teenagers living with a parent with advanced cancer, and to determine whether the conceptualization of "fading away", as described by Davies, Chekryn-Reimer, & Martens (1990), reflects the teenagers' experience as it does the experience of children over the age of 18years in the same situation. The grounded theory approach to qualitative research was the method used in this study. Data were collected through a series of interviews with eleven teenagers who were living with a parent with advanced cancer. Initial interviews were loosely guided by a set of questions derived by Davies et al. (1990), from their previous research on the conceptualization of "fading away". Data were analyzed according to the constant comparative method of Strauss & Corbin (1990), in order to uncover core categories. The data were then in a format which could be, first, discussed within the conceptualization of "fading away", and second, compared to data from children over 18 years from the research of Davies et al. (1990). Findings revealed that living with a terminally ill parent undoubtedly had a profound emotional and physical impact on the teenagers in this study. The teenagers described the phenomenon of shielding which was a useful strategy they adopted in order to pursue the developmental tasks of adolescence, and to get on with their own lives despite the worsening situation at home. Four of the seven phenomena of the conceptualization of "fading away' reflected the experience of the teenagers and three did not. The differences between the two age groups of children could be accounted for by developmental stage. The findings from this study provide nurses with a better understanding of the experience of teenagers living with a parent with advanced cancer. It provides direction for assessing, teaching and supporting teenagers living in this type of family situation, and offers guidance for working with the parents of these teenagers. Implications for future research include further exploration of different aspects of the teenagers' experience, in-depth examination of the phenomenon of shielding with different populations of teenagers, and a recommendation for intervention studies.

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