Being a sibling of a child diagnosed with cancer can be a lonely and unsettling experience. Necessarily, parents, other family and members of their social networks turn their attention to meeting the medical and support needs of the child diagnosed with cancer. Siblings of children with cancer have demonstrated a variety of poor psychosocial maladjustments including anxiety, depression, alienation, poor school functioning and lower quality of life. At the same time, up to 85% of adolescents report social media access and use, with many stating they are online multiple times a day. Emerging research suggests that these social media-mediated relationships and interactions (i.e., social networks) may serve as critical sources of support for this age group, and influence health outcomes more generally. According to the stress-buffering hypothesis, the perception of social support is a key factor in psychosocial outcomes in adolescents and their adjustment to living in a family affected by cancer. This proposal addresses two critical research objectives that have not been investigated among siblings of children with cancer. 1) Describe the role of social media within SoCwC?s self-identified social support network and 2) Examine how SM use influences the relationship between online social support and psychosocial adjustment. A mixed method approach will utilize semi- structured interviews with siblings to map their social eco-networks, observation of social media interactions, which will inform a quantitative assessment of social support, social media use and psychosocial adjustment. This study will identify ways in which social media support can be leveraged in meaningful ways for future interventions, study, and support among sibling of children with cancer. Training Plan: The proposed training aims to be achieved during the award period are: 1) Acquire theoretical and substantive knowledge relevant to the interplay of social relationships and stress on the psychosocial adjustment of children; 2) Apply and refine essential research skills related to working with and engage children, adolescents, and their families affected by cancer in research; 3) Design and develop a secure and efficient database and an online survey that will be used to screen, consent, and collect data. Learn and apply structural equation modeling to survey data gathered; 4) Learn research methods for assessing social networks and social media data that can be applied in my future program of research. Environment: The College of Nursing at the University of Utah has a strong nursing PhD program well known for their NIH funding and its focus on cancer and family caregiving research. Further, the University provides numerous opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration for training for professional development and research including affiliation with Intermountain Healthcare and Huntsman Cancer Institute.

Public Health Relevance

Social support is a crucial part of adolescent development and a well-established influence on health outcomes. Siblings of children with cancer are at elevated risk of poor psychosocial adjustment due to the disruptions within the family and their parent?s cancer caregiving burdens. The purpose this study is to understand the role of social media on the perceptions of social support as well as its role within their social networks to facilitate social support and improve health.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR)
Predoctoral Individual National Research Service Award (F31)
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National Institute of Nursing Research Initial Review Group (NRRC)
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Banks, David
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University of Utah
Schools of Nursing
Salt Lake City
United States
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