Author

Sniderman

Date of Award

6-1996

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Department

Communication

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Open Access

Abstract

A cancer, HIV, or AIDS diagnosis may alter a person's life. This may be exhibited communicatively, particularly when people with illnesses (PWI) disclose their diagnosis to people without illnesses (PWOI). The present study examined the premise that communication between PWI and PWOI was likely to be affected by illness disclosure. PWI were asked whether and how (positively or negatively) they perceived communication to change in family, doctor, nurse, other health care professional and their own contexts. Results indicated that PWI communication did change, though this was not found across contexts. Specific types of communication changes PWI experienced included greater openness, information-seeking, discussion of health and illness, emotional talk, restrictions on some topics, and fear of communication given the illness. Positive and negative communication perceptions showed that PWI perceived information seeking, illness predominance, communicated caring, affirmation, and other to fit both categories. Negative communication indicated that PWI may experience mothering and condescending patronizing communication similar in nature to elderly people or people with disabilities since all are stigmatized groups. Research findings are discussed based on uncertainty reduction theory, predicted outcome value, social identity theory, and communication accommodation theory. These theories show that PWIs’ disclosure to PWOI ultimately can have positive and negative interpersonal and intergroup ramifications on the relationship.

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