The Effects of Cancer on Romantic and Sexual Relationships for Young People Entering Adulthood

Prof Doc Thesis

Rowe, P. 2018. The Effects of Cancer on Romantic and Sexual Relationships for Young People Entering Adulthood. Prof Doc Thesis University of East London School of Psychology
AuthorsRowe, P.
TypeProf Doc Thesis

In the UK, approximately 2600 adolescents and young adults (AYAs) aged 15-29 are diagnosed with cancer each year (Cancer Research UK, 2018), and improved prognosis rates has led to more focus on ‘survivorship’. Current literature suggests that AYAs’ romantic relationships are a significant source of support during cancer, but that dealing with the disease can also exacerbate conflict. Young people may re-evaluate their life and change their priorities, which can either hasten the end of poor quality relationships or bring couples closer together.
Drawing on recommendations in the literature, this study focused on a specific period during the AYA years (young people in their 20s), using a UK population. Underpinned by a critical realist epistemology and using a qualitative methodology, it used semi-structured interviews to gather the experiences of 6 women and 5 men aged between 20 and 28, with an average of 3 years since diagnosis. All had a range of experiences in terms of relationship ‘status’ during their experience of cancer.
Using an inductive thematic analysis, four interconnected themes were constructed from the data: ‘Construction of romantic relationships in context’, ‘challenge and change’, ‘managing changing perceptions’ and ‘different selves and new perspectives’. Similarly to previous research, the findings highlight the particular importance of romantic relationships for young people, and the attention they deserve for researchers concerned with AYA cancer survivorship. Importantly, romantic relationships appear to be intrinsically connected with development of identity, which can be challenged and changed by the cancer experience. If navigated well, this change can be for the better, leading to more fulfilling relationships in the future.

KeywordsCanceradolescent; neoplasm; survivorship; AYA; young adult; adolescent; romantic relationships; sexual relationships; post-traumatic growth; mental health; psychosocial
PublisherUniversity of East London
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PrintMay 2018
Publication process dates
Deposited21 Nov 2019
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License: CC BY-NC-ND 4.0
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