Life Course Perspective on Coping with a Life Threatening Chronic Illness: Outcome Based Age Comparisons

By Gül Seçkin.

Published by The Social Sciences Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

According to life course perspective in gerontology, an exploration of timing of life events is important in order to gain better insight into individual outcomes when coping with stressful life events. This research explored the degree to which psychological outcomes of coping with cancer are linked with the ‘temporality’ of cancer diagnosis and whether the outcomes change according to the life stage of the patient. The dimensions of temporality were conceptualized as: a) current age of the patients b) age at cancer diagnosis and c) length of time elapsed since cancer diagnosis. The dimensions of patient outcomes included: a) psychological distress and b) stress related psychological growth (or also called post-traumatic growth). The research was conducted through an online survey with 350 respondents with a history of cancer treatment who participated in online discussion and support groups. The results suggest that psychological distress and psychological growth are not necessarily mutually exclusive and the two can be experienced at the same time depending on the life stage of the person at the time of the traumatic experience. Findings also showed that even though the patients who were diagnosed with cancer at an earlier stage in their life courses reported more distress compared to the older patients, they also reported their experience as a tool to restructure the rest of their lives and help them grow out of a negative experience. Accordingly, timing of life events gains an important role in providing us with a better comprehension of individual psychological outcomes and enables us to better understand human resiliency when coping with stressful life events.

Keywords: Life Course, Cancer, Age, Psychological Distress, Psychological Growth

International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, Volume 3, Issue 12, pp.93-104. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 604.461KB).

Dr. Gül Seçkin

Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Baltimore, Maryland, USA


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