Details of Thesis

Title Coping with Cancer: the Adolescent experience
Author Till, Tracy
Institution Australian Catholic University
Date 2004
Abstract Adolescence is the period of physical and emotional development from childhood to adulthood. As an adolescent develops they struggle with many issues including developing independence from their parents, embracing peer culture, an increase in the importance of body image and the development of sexual, vocational, and moral identity. The diagnosis and treatment for cancer can interfere with the adolescent meeting these goals, and subsequently cause the experience of adolescence to be more difficult. The aim of this study was to identify how adolescents with cancer cope with their situation. The objectives were to determine the resources adolescents utilise to cope with their experience, and the coping strategies adolescents use to cope with their experience. A thorough literature review identified that there had previously been only limited research with adolescents with cancer. In particular there had been very few qualitative studies investigating the specific coping strategies used by adolescents with cancer, with no such research being undertaken in Queensland. This study was conducted under the epistemological stance of constructionism. Meaning was constructed for this study of adolescents with cancer through the use of grounded theory methods, and secondary analysis of data. Interviews were collected by the researcher for a project at the Royal Children’s Hospital. Using grounded theory methods, seven of the interviews were analysed. In the process of developing a central category, Schatzman's Dimensional Matrix was used to assign codes into context, processes, consequences, and conditions, under the central category of “conquering the cancer experience”. The experience of diagnosis and treatment for cancer was difficult for these adolescents, however they ultimately coped and became stronger as a result of their experience. The key findings of this study identified that adolescents were able to cope with their experience. These finding were discussed in relation to factors which enhanced their coping, factors which influenced their ability to cope and how the experience changed the adolescent. Recommendations were also made with the aim of improving the experience of adolescents undergoing treatment for cancer in Queensland. Through the implementation of the recommendations of this study, hopefully the journey of adolescents with cancer can be made easier.
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