Supportive Care in Cancer

, Volume 25, Issue 11, pp 3561–3568 | Cite as

‘We’re completely back to normal, but I’d say it’s a new normal’: a qualitative exploration of adaptive functioning in rural families following a parental cancer diagnosis

  • E. D. GarrardEmail author
  • K. M. Fennell
  • C. Wilson
Original Article



The purpose of this study was to explore rural families’ functioning following a parental cancer diagnosis.


Ten families in which a parent of dependent children had received a cancer diagnosis were purposively sampled using two questionnaires based upon the Resiliency Model of Family Adjustment and Adaptation (RMFAA): the Family Crisis Oriented Personal Evaluation Scales (F-COPES) and the Family Attachment Changeability Index 8 (FACI8). The total participant number was 34, which comprised the involvement of 17 parents and 17 children. The use of questionnaires ensured representation from both high and low functioning families. Qualitative data were gathered via semi-structured family interviews, and thematic analysis was used.


Families identified three key challenges that are not accounted for by the RMFAA and may be unique to the rural cancer patient experience: frequent travel, increased work/financial demands and family separation. Families also described a number of protective factors that enabled them to cope with the demands of the cancer diagnosis, some of which were specific to rural families, while others may apply to Australian families more broadly. Many of these protective factors aligned with the RMFAA framework.


The findings suggest that rural families’ ability and willingness to access external resources, including informal community support and formal support services, are influenced by the strength of their internal protective factors. This result has practical implications for the development of interventions that accommodate the specific supportive care needs of rural families affected by cancer.


Cancer Family functioning Rural Psychosocial 


Compliance with ethical standards



Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest. The authors have full control of all primary data and agree for Supportive Care in Cancer to review the data if desired.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of PsychologyThe University of AdelaideAdelaideAustralia
  2. 2.Sansom Institute for Health Research, Division of Health SciencesUniversity of South AustraliaAdelaideAustralia
  3. 3.Flinders Centre for Innovation in Cancer, School of MedicineFlinders UniversityBedford ParkAustralia
  4. 4.Cancer Council SAEastwoodAustralia
  5. 5.Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness and Research CentreHeidelbergAustralia
  6. 6.School of Psychology and Public HealthLa Trobe UniversityMelbourneAustralia

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