Family Goals as Indicants of Adaptation during Chronic Illness


  • Kathleen M. Stetz Ph.D., R.N.,

    Corresponding author
    1. Kathleen M. Stetz is an Assistant Professor of Nursing at University of Washington-Bothell, Bothell, Washington.
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  • Frances Marcus Lewis Ph.D., R.N.,

    1. Frances Marcus Lewis is a Professor in the School of Nursing, Department of Community Health Care Systems, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington.
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  • Gail M. Houck Ph.D., R.N.

    1. Gail M. Houck is an Assistant Professor in the School of Nursing, Department of Mental Health Nursing, the Oregon Health Sciences University, Portland, Oregon.
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Address correspondence to Kathleen M. Stetz, Ph.D., R.N., University of Washington-Bothell, 22011 26th Ave SE, Bothell, WA 98021.


Abstract Families that successfully adapt to new situations have been found not only to appraise the situations as manageable but also to possess the necessary resources to meet the challenges. The purpose of this study was to determine the goals that families in which the mother had chronic illness identified for themselves and how these goals related to family functioning. A five-occasion. 15-month, descriptive longitudinal design was used to collect data. Data from occasions 2 and 3 were used to generate the coding scheme. This coding scheme was used to analyze the fourth-occasion data set, which is presented here. The sample at the fourth occasion consisted of 103 families in which the mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, diabetes, or fibrocystic breast disease. Content analysis of responses revealed 10 mutually exclusive categories of family goals: viability of children, cohesion, adaptation, boundary alterations, health maintenance, conflict management, individual achievements and pursuits, acquisition of possessions, financial stability, and family relocation. Types of goals identified did not significantly differ by disease type. The results suggest that family-system goals are relatively enduring and not readily discarded in response to health or illness disruption.