Young people's perspectives on open communication between family members when a parent is dying

Turner, Nicola (2017) Young people's perspectives on open communication between family members when a parent is dying. Palliative and Supportive Care . pp. 1-7. ISSN 1478-9523

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Objective: Living with a parent who is approaching the end of life is profoundly troubling for young people. Research indicates that family communication about life-limiting parental illness can influence how young people manage living with dying. In particular, open communication between family members has been shown to be helpful. This paper reports on a study of young people’s experiences of family interaction when a parent is dying and considers the practice of open communication in the context of young people’s involvement in giving and receiving family care.

Methods: A narrative approach was employed based on in-depth semistructured interviews with 10 young people (aged 13–21) living with a parent thought to be in the last year of life.

Results: Young people’s attitudes toward open communication between family members were more ambivalent and ambiguous than previous research suggests. Parental attempts at open communication were sometimes overlooked by young people, indicating that there may be differences between knowledge given and young people’s acknowledgment of sensitive information. Some young people valued open communication as a signifier of the close relationships between family members, while others wanted to exercise more control over what they knew, when, and how. Young people’s accounts challenged the positioning of young people as passive recipients of information. Young people were active in shaping family communication in their everyday lives, and deliberative acts of speaking or remaining silent were one way in which young people exercised care for themselves and others.

Significance of Results: This study extends research on communication within families when a parent has a life-limiting illness and suggests that supporting young people’s agency in determining how they receive information may be more beneficial than promoting open communication between family members.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: Young people, Communication, Parental illness, Dying
Schools/Departments: University of Nottingham, UK > Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences > School of Health Sciences
Identification Number:
Depositing User: Turner, Nicola
Date Deposited: 21 Mar 2018 14:37
Last Modified: 04 May 2020 18:53

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