A Grounded Theory of Students’ Long-Distance Coping With a Family Member’s Cancer


In this study, we explore how family members cope with one source of stress—cancer diagnosis and treatment. We suggest that coping away from one’s family is characterized by constraints that are not common to proximal coping. We conducted six focus groups with college students (N = 21) at a university in the United States to investigate their long-distance coping experiences and used grounded theory methods to develop a model of college students’ long-distance coping. Negotiating the tension between being here (at school) and being there (at home) was central to their experiences. Participants described four manifestations of their negotiation between here and there (i.e., expressing/hiding emotion, longing to care for the patient there/avoiding responsibility here, feeling shock at degeneration there/escaping degeneration by being here, and lacking information from there) and three strategies they used to cope (i.e., being here and withdrawing, being here and doing school, and seeking/not seeking support).

Document Type





cancer, psychosocial issues, communication, coping and adaptation, families, grounded theory

Publication Date


Journal Title

Qualitative Health Research