UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Communication patterns in families with a chronically ill child Canam, Connie J.


This exploratory study was designed to elicit information on how parents communicate about their child's chronic illness within the family and the guidance they have received from health professionals in communicating about the illness. The study was conducted with a convenience sample of 13 parents from 11 families of children with cystic fibrosis. A semi-structured interview schedule was used with each family The data collected were summarized into categories and descrip tive statistics were utilized. All 11 families described difficulties in one or more areas of communicating about the illness. Only one parent had received specific guidance from health professionals on communicating about cystic fibrosis. The results of this study suggest that most parents do not give their children sufficient information about cystic fibrosis to enable them to cope effectively with the illness. Also, parents do not discuss their own feelings about living with a chronically ill child nor do they encourage their children to talk about their feelings. This lack of communication about the facts and feelings of living with cystic fibrosis appears to be related to two factors. One factor is that parents do not know how to communicate about the illness and its effects on the family. They need guidance in providing children with adequate and age-appropriate information, in checking children's understanding of the illness and in encouraging children to express their feelings. The other factor is that parents do not perceive the importance to their children of having a thorough understanding of cystic fibrosis, nor the importance to them of having opportunities to express their feelings. Further research is required to identify the knowledge, feelings, and perceptions of chronically ill children and their siblings.

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