Creating Good Relationships
Edited By Vince Waldron and Douglas Kelley
Moral Talk Across the Lifespan offers a stimulating blend of social science research and moral reflection. It is a key text for courses in Relational Communication, Family Communication, Interpersonal Communication, and Communication Ethics.
Chapter Five: Morality and Family Communication When Coping with Cancer
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Morality AND Family Communication When Coping WITH Cancer
CARLA L. FISHER & BIANCA WOLF
We are increasingly presented with health messages about how one “should” go about living a healthy life or attend to an illness, assigning responsibility to individuals as moral agents of their bodies (Sontag, 1978). When individuals become ill, at any point in the lifespan, attributions of responsibility for their health status can insinuate failure on their part to live properly or correctly (Broom & Whittaker, 2004). They can feel pressured to cope (or survive) in the “right” way. Likewise, their families feel morally obligated to respond in the “right” way by facilitating and not inhibiting their loved one’s survival. Patients and families not only negotiate such moral commitments within their family where norms of “right or wrong” behavior are first developed, but also simultaneously navigate societal norms that apply “moral and psychological pressure” on how they should be coping (de Raeve, 1997, p. 249). Ultimately, these moral discourses about managing illness might both enhance and challenge illness experiences.
More attention is being paid to helping families develop healthy communication approaches to manage illness, but rarely is morality considered an important factor in how they cope. Likewise, even though morality may drive how one copes (or what one deems to be the right way to manage illness), their behavior may not be aligned with the “right” health outcomes. In this chapter we...
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