Healthy Identity Development in Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) Oncology: Enhancing Family and Clinician Communication to Buffer AYAs’ Identity DIstress and Promote Psychosocial Development

Diliara (Dee) Bagautdinova

Graduate Student, Mass Communication Program

Abstract: A cancer diagnosis during adolescence and young adulthood (AYA) or ages 15-39 disrupts AYAs’ identity development and creates identity distress. Although AYAs’ identity development is a recognized psychosocial concern and need for diagnosed AYAs (while also being the key developmental task at this phase of the life course), identity is one of the least studied psychosocial needs in AYA oncology care. Identity development can be promoted (or inhibited) in AYAs’ social interactions. Thus, AYAs’ communication with parents (often their primary source of support) and clinicians may function adaptively or maladaptively for AYAs’ identity development. The results of my qualitative research indicate that parents’ authoritarian communication contributes to AYAs’ identity distress, whereas parents prioritizing their AYAs’ voice can further support AYAs’ identity development. In the context of clinical communication, findings highlight the importance of promoting AYAs’ control/self-management of care to facilitate AYAs’ identity development. Additionally, a humanistic communication approach to care is also important – clinicians must prioritize or see the person behind the patient. Finally, AYAs themselves may buffer identity distress caused by parents’ and clinicians’ maladaptive communication approaches by engaging in assertive communication with them. Together these findings can be used to develop communication skills interventions that are specifically targeted to the distinct needs of AYAs, parents, and clinicians to enhance parent-AYA and clinician-AYA communication to promote AYAs’ healthy identity development across the cancer continuum.

Diliara (Dee) Bagautdinova is a doctoral candidate who will graduate with her Ph.D. degree from the University of Florida’s College of Journalism and Communications this August. As a health communication scholar, she has developed a research program that has largely focused on conducting translational research that can be implemented into interventions and healthcare practice to improve interpersonal communication in clinical and family contexts to support disease coping, shared decision-making, and psychosocial oncology outcomes of individuals at different phases of the lifespan. Her primary research interest focuses on how communication between adolescent and young adult (AYA) cancer patients/survivors and parents, as well as clinicians can promote their healthy identity development or contribute to identity distress.

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SC.912.N.1.6 Describe how scientific inferences are drawn from scientific observations and provide examples from the content being studied.

SC.912.N.2.5 Describe instances in which scientists’ varied backgrounds, talents, interests, and goals influence the inferences and thus the explanations that they make about observations of natural phenomena and describe that competing interpretations (explanations) of scientists are a strength of science as they are a source of new, testable ideas that have the potential to add new evidence to support one or another of the explanations


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