The role of constructed meaning in adaptation to the onset of life-threatening illness.
ABSTRACT Do the meanings inherent within a traumatic life event increase our understanding of differential mental health outcomes? In light of this question two central issues are addressed in this article: (1) what variables influence the meaning that is constructed in response to a crisis, and (2) how does this meaning affect the self and ultimately the adaptation/mental health outcome as indicated by the level of emotional distress? A theoretical model is evaluated via a comparative analysis that incorporates the data of 76 persons with cancer and 130 persons with HIV/AIDS. Three primary findings support this model and the significance of the role of meaning in response to a crisis: (1) the meaning constructed in response to a crisis can be operationalized and its role evaluated as a dimension of the adaptation process, (2) evidence indicates constructed meaning affects self-perception, which subsequently affects adaptation, and (3) the pattern of effects does not differ by illness type since analyses indicate meaning is central to individuals' responses regardless of differences in characteristics of the event.
Research on Aging 10/2012; 35(6):688-709. DOI:10.1177/0164027512460692 · 1.23 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Finding meaning in and for one's life has been repeatedly found to have a salutogenic effect in both normal and highly stressful situations. Similarly, religiousness/spirituality also proved to benefit people in different aspects of human functioning. Both meaning in life and religiousness/spirituality are frequently implied in the process of adaptation, thus possible sources of positive affect, emotional co-activation being a key aspect of adaptation (Larsen, Hemenover, Norris, & Cacioppo, 2003). The present study examined the relationship between positive meaning in life, religious/spiritual growth and positive affect in a sample of 72 Romanian female cancer patients. Our results show, that in the case of the assessed cancer patients, the relationship between positive affect and religious growth is mediated by the individual's ability to find positive meaning for her life. KEYWORDS: illness-induced stress, meaning in life, spirituality, benefit finding, positive affect.
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ABSTRACT: Abstract Background. Advances in science and technology have resulted in longer lives for people with life-threatening illnesses. However, little research compares the stories of people with different life-threatening illnesses. Objectives. The objectives of this study were to explore and contrast how people story and re-story life-threatening illness specifically cancer, chronic kidney disease (CKD) and HIV. Design. Narrative inquiry within a social constructionist perspective was used.Methods. A total of 113 in-depth interviews were conducted with 32 participants over a period of three years. Participants. Study participants included 32 people: 10 with cancer, 14 with CKD and 8 with HIV/AIDS. Participants varied in age (37-83 years old, Mean = 61.2 years), gender (17 men and 14 women), location (urban and rural), time post-diagnosis (Median = 8 years), intensity or invasiveness of treatment, and prognosis (continuous treatment, remission, cure, palliative).Results. Participants described living with a life-threatening illness as a delicate balance. They focused on living their lives yet were fully and acutely aware of their own mortality. There was an undercurrent of sustained uncertainty that permeated their lives. Stories of life-threatening illness differed across the three illness groups and shifted over time as disease trajectories changed. Each disease brought specific challenges. With cancer, turning points and uncertainty were prominent. With CKD, a stealthy beginning to life-extending treatment through dialysis or transplant was evident, and with HIV, a shift from a perceived death sentence to a focus on hope and living was notable. Conclusions. Findings revealed that trajectories of illness for participants living with cancer, CKD and HIV are complex and differ markedly across the groups. Narratives shifted across all of the illness groups as participants navigated and re-storied the terrains of their life-threatening illness. Findings illuminated the need for health care providers to focus on person specific and contextualized aspects of the illness experience.International Journal of Nursing Studies 10/2014; 52(1). DOI:10.1016/j.ijnurstu.2014.10.008 · 2.25 Impact Factor