Evaluation of a conceptual model based on Mishel's theories of uncertainty in illness in a sample of Taiwanese parents of children with cancer: A cross-sectional questionnaire survey

Lin Lin*, Chao Hsing Yeh, Merle H. Mishel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal Article peer-review

27 Scopus citations


Background: The prognoses of childhood cancers have improved over the last few decades. Nevertheless, parental uncertainty about the absolute cure and possible relapse pervades the entire illness trajectory. Despite illness-related uncertainty is significantly related to psychological distress, continual uncertainty may serve as a catalyst for positive psychological change and personal growth in the context of surviving cancer. Objectives: The purpose of this study was to examine a conceptual model that depicts coping and growth in Taiwanese parents living with the continual uncertainty about their child's cancer. The conceptual model was guided by Mishel's theories of Uncertainty in Illness. The impact of the child's health status, parents' education level and perceived social support on parental uncertainty was analyzed. The mediating effect of coping as well as the influence of parental uncertainty and parents' perceived social support on growth through uncertainty was incorporated in the model testing. Methods: This study involved a sample of 205 mothers and 96 fathers of 226 children enrolled in a longitudinal cancer study in Taiwan. This study only analyzed the data collected at baseline. A cross-sectional design was utilized to examine the relationships among proposed variables. Parental uncertainty and growth through uncertainty were measured by the translated questionnaires originally developed by Mishel. Parents' perceived social support and coping were measured by culturally sensitive instruments developed in Taiwan. Results: The full research model and its alternative models fit adequately to the data via structural equation modeling tests. Parental uncertainty and parents' perceived social support were associated with growth through uncertainty which was mediated by coping. Child's health status and parents' perceived social support would significantly predict parental uncertainty. Conclusion: This study suggests that parental uncertainty has negative impact on coping strategies such as interacting with family members while these coping strategies may help Taiwanese parents gain growth through uncertainty. Coping strategies of searching for spiritual meaning and increasing religious activities were not significantly influenced by parental uncertainty in this study. The two coping strategies may be relevant to growth through uncertainty due to Taiwanese cultural belief. Moreover, the availability of social support promotes growth through uncertainty by its impact on lowering parental uncertainty and encouraging more coping. The findings indicate that Taiwanese parents may gain growth through uncertainty while experiencing their child's cancer. The research model provides possible guidelines for oncology nurses to deliver more culturally competent health care for Taiwanese parents of children with cancer.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1510-1524
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Journal of Nursing Studies
Issue number12
StatePublished - 12 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Coping
  • Growth through uncertainty
  • Parental uncertainty
  • Pediatric cancer
  • Taiwanese parents


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