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21.06.2017 | Original Article | Ausgabe 11/2017

Supportive Care in Cancer 11/2017

‘We’re completely back to normal, but I’d say it’s a new normal’: a qualitative exploration of adaptive functioning in rural families following a parental cancer diagnosis

Supportive Care in Cancer > Ausgabe 11/2017
E. D. Garrard, K. M. Fennell, C. Wilson



The purpose of this study was to explore rural families’ functioning following a parental cancer diagnosis.


Ten families in which a parent of dependent children had received a cancer diagnosis were purposively sampled using two questionnaires based upon the Resiliency Model of Family Adjustment and Adaptation (RMFAA): the Family Crisis Oriented Personal Evaluation Scales (F-COPES) and the Family Attachment Changeability Index 8 (FACI8). The total participant number was 34, which comprised the involvement of 17 parents and 17 children. The use of questionnaires ensured representation from both high and low functioning families. Qualitative data were gathered via semi-structured family interviews, and thematic analysis was used.


Families identified three key challenges that are not accounted for by the RMFAA and may be unique to the rural cancer patient experience: frequent travel, increased work/financial demands and family separation. Families also described a number of protective factors that enabled them to cope with the demands of the cancer diagnosis, some of which were specific to rural families, while others may apply to Australian families more broadly. Many of these protective factors aligned with the RMFAA framework.


The findings suggest that rural families’ ability and willingness to access external resources, including informal community support and formal support services, are influenced by the strength of their internal protective factors. This result has practical implications for the development of interventions that accommodate the specific supportive care needs of rural families affected by cancer.

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