Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Clinical Psychology

First Advisor

Rosalie Corona


Family health history (FHH) has been recognized as an important tool in cancer prevention and health promotion. To date, literature on FHH discussions about cancer have largely focused on patient-physician communication or the dissemination of cancer-specific genetic tests results within the family. Fewer studies have sought to identify family factors that may promote FHH discussions, yet this type of information could be used to identify families needing support in having these conversations. Thus, the present study examined relations between family organization (cohesion and flexibility), communication openness, and FHH communication about cancer within a diverse group of women recruited from an urban, safety-net women's health clinic. Participants were enrolled in a randomized control trial examining the effects of an educational intervention on family communication about hereditary breast and colon cancers (Kin Fact Study). For the present study, baseline survey data for 472 women were analyzed. Participants completed measures on demographics, family organization, communication openness, and FHH communication. Average age was 34 years and 59% reported being Black. Thirty-one percent had graduated high school and 28% reported having commercial health insurance. Seventy-five percent of women reported a family history of cancer in a first or second degree relative. Descriptive statistics, correlations, and multiple linear regression and hierarchical logistic regressions, adjusting for key factors, were performed. Nineteen percent of women actively collected FHH information about cancer and 11% reported actively sharing cancer risk information with relatives. Being older, having a greater educational attainment, and having a family history of cancer was associated with having collected FHH; while being older and reporting higher levels of cohesion/flexibility was associated with sharing cancer risk information. Adjusting for demographic variables, cohesion, flexibility, and openness were not significant predictors of collecting or sharing FHH. Family history of cancer did not moderate the relationship between family organization and FHH. Cohesion and flexibility levels did significantly predict communication openness. This study contributes to a small but emergent literature in the field of FHH communication about cancer as it explores family context factors that may aid in the development of prevention interventions. Clinical implications and directions for future research are discussed.


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Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

September 2013