Relational processes and psychological adjustment among young adults with cancer: The role of technology-related communication

Psychooncology. 2019 Dec;28(12):2406-2414. doi: 10.1002/pon.5269. Epub 2019 Nov 11.


Objective: Little attention has been paid to understanding how engaging in cancer-related interpersonal exchanges via varying modes of communication influences psychological well-being among young adults with cancer. This study explored the moderating role of communication mode on the relationship of relational processes of disclosure and responsiveness with psychological well-being.

Methods: 61 young adults with cancer (Mage = 34.59, SD = 4.82) completed a questionnaire about their most recent cancer-related conversation. Participants reported on communication mode (ie, face-to-face, text message, and phone call) and relational processes of self- and support member- disclosure of thoughts, information, and feelings and how accepted, cared for, and understood they felt within the cancer-related conversation. Cancer adjustment measures included functional well-being and depressive symptoms.

Results: There were no main effects of communication mode or relational processes. However, communication mode did moderate the relationship between relational processes and cancer adjustment. Greater relational processes of disclosure and responsiveness were associated with better functional well-being and lower depressive symptoms only among those who engaged in their most recent cancer-related conversation through technology-related communication and not for those engaged in face-to-face communication.

Conclusion: Relational processes that are likely to benefit psychological adjustment after cancer appear to be particularly advantageous over technology-based communication. Young adults commonly report feelings of social isolation and psychological distress after cancer. These findings suggest that technology-related communication holds promise as a way to strengthen support-related communication and protect against distress.

Keywords: cancer; depressive symptoms; functional well-being; oncology; relational processes; technology-related communication; young adults.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adult
  • Communication*
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Emotional Adjustment*
  • Emotions
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Information Technology
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Male
  • Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Telephone
  • Text Messaging
  • Young Adult