Denying and Accepting a Family Member’s Illness: Uncertainty Management as a Process

Charee M. Thompson, Lynsey K. Romo, Manuel D. Pulido, Danni Liao, Lauren A. Kriss, Sara Babu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Doubt is a common, yet challenging form of uncertainty to have about another’s illness. Although navigating illness uncertainty is a process of continual (re)appraisal and management, existing research narrowly examines windows of uncertainty experience. To illustrate how uncertainty management in the context of doubt is recursive, nonlinear, and ongoing, we apply a process approach to communication to uncertainty management theory. Drawing on interviews with 33 U.S. adults, our findings explicate a prominently teleological (i.e., goal-driven) process wherein participants’ uncertainty management served to accept or deny illness, depending on the extent individuals valued their own and the other’s identity and the relationship. Participants generally moved through this process along one of three trajectories: growth, stagnation, or resentment. We also observed dialectical, evolutionary, and life cycle processes in the data. Findings demonstrate the heuristic value of studying uncertainty management as a multiple motor process.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)594-607
Number of pages14
JournalHealth communication
Issue number3
StateAccepted/In press - 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Communication


Dive into the research topics of 'Denying and Accepting a Family Member’s Illness: Uncertainty Management as a Process'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this