A study of couple communication patterns when coping with early stage breast cancer

B. Ann Hilton


Talking patterns were explored in 43 couples where the woman was newly diagnosed with non-metastatic breast cancer. Family interviews were done at five points from the time of diagnosis to one year later. Qualitative grounded theory methods were used. Couples talked reasonably easily but in varying degrees about factual material. Three major types of couple talking patterns about fears, doubts and emotional issues were seen, based on whether they shared similar or different views about the importance of talking. Some couples talked openly or reasonably openly. Others did not talk to each other, although a few of these talked to other people. The third group of couples, who had divergent views, demonstrated more problems in their communication. Major reasons for talking/not talking patterns were related to prior patterns and beliefs, and to feeling that there was no need to talk or uncertainty about when, if and how to talk. The most facilitative communication pattern was open, but with selective disclosure. The findings have important implications for nursing.

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