Two worlds: Adolescents' strategies for managing life with a parent in hospice

Denice Kopchak Sheehan, M. Murray Mayo, Grace H. Christ, Kim Heim, Stephanie Parish, Ghada Shahrour, Claire Burke Draucker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

7 Scopus citations


Objective: This study aimed to generate an explanatory model of the coping strategies that adolescents employ to manage the stressors they experience in the final months of their ill parent's life and shortly after their death. Method: The sample included 26 families of adolescents with a parent receiving care in a large hospice program in northeastern Ohio. A semistructured interview was conducted with 14 ill parents, 17 well parents/guardians, and 30 of their adolescent children before the parent's death and, additionally, with 6 of these families after the death. The interviews were audiotaped, transcribed verbatim, and analyzed using a grounded-theory approach. Results: The participants described two worlds that constituted the lives of the adolescents: the well world of normal adolescence and the ill world of having a parent near the end of life. The adolescents experienced a common challenge of living in two worlds and responded to the challenge with a process we labeled managing two worlds. Five stages through which adolescents manage their worlds were identified: keeping the ill world and the well world separate; having the ill world intrude into the well world; moving between the ill world and the well world; being immersed in the ill world; and returning to the well world having been changed by the ill world. Significance of results: The explanatory model of managing two worlds outlines a complex and nuanced process that changes over time. The model can be used by health professionals who seek to help adolescents navigate this critical time when their parents are dying or have recently died. These results can also be used to inform the development of interventions that assist families with strategies tailored to an adolescent's specific needs. Future research should investigate associations among the process of managing two worlds and outcomes related to adolescent bereavement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)177-186
Number of pages10
JournalPalliative and Supportive Care
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1 2016


  • Adolescents/youth
  • Advanced cancer
  • Hospice
  • Parental death
  • Qualitative research

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nursing(all)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Two worlds: Adolescents' strategies for managing life with a parent in hospice'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Cite this