Being a sibling of a child diagnosed with cancer can be a lonely and unsettling experience. Necessarily,
parents, other family and members of their social networks turn their attention to meeting the medical and
support needs of the child diagnosed with cancer. Siblings of children with cancer have demonstrated a variety
of poor psychosocial maladjustments including anxiety, depression, alienation, poor school functioning and
lower quality of life. At the same time, up to 85% of adolescents report social media access and use, with many
stating they are online multiple times a day. Emerging research suggests that these social media-mediated
relationships and interactions (i.e., social networks) may serve as critical sources of support for this age group,
and influence health outcomes more generally. According to the stress-buffering hypothesis, the perception of
social support is a key factor in psychosocial outcomes in adolescents and their adjustment to living in a family
affected by cancer. This proposal addresses two critical research objectives that have not been
investigated among siblings of children with cancer. 1) Describe the role of social media within
SoCwC’s self-identified social support network and 2) Examine how SM use influences the relationship
between online social support and psychosocial adjustment. A mixed method approach will utilize semi-
structured interviews with siblings to map their social eco-networks, observation of social media interactions,
which will inform a quantitative assessment of social support, social media use and psychosocial adjustment.
This study will identify ways in which social media support can be leveraged in meaningful ways for future
interventions, study, and support among sibling of children with cancer.
Training Plan: The proposed training aims to be achieved during the award period are: 1) Acquire theoretical
and substantive knowledge relevant to the interplay of social relationships and stress on the psychosocial
adjustment of children; 2) Apply and refine essential research skills related to working with and engage
children, adolescents, and their families affected by cancer in research; 3) Design and develop a secure and
efficient database and an online survey that will be used to screen, consent, and collect data. Learn and apply
structural equation modeling to survey data gathered; 4) Learn research methods for assessing social
networks and social media data that can be applied in my future program of research.
Environment: The College of Nursing at the University of Utah has a strong nursing PhD program well known
for their NIH funding and its focus on cancer and family caregiving research. Further, the University provides
numerous opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration for training for professional development and
research including affiliation with Intermountain Healthcare and Huntsman Cancer Institute.