Taiwanese Mother-Daughter Breast Cancer Communication and Its Influence on Daughters’ Prevention Behaviors

Wan-Lin Chang

Major Professor: Xiaoquan Zhao, PhD, Department of Communication

Committee Members: Gary Kreps, Kevin Wright

Research Hall, #162
April 20, 2015, 11:00 AM to 08:00 AM


Since 1982, cancer has been the leading cause of death in Taiwan, and among all cancers, breast cancer has the highest incidence rate. Almost one quarter (24.7 %) of cancer diagnoses among females are attributed to breast cancer, and its corresponding mortality rate has, for years, hovered at around 10-11% (Ministry of Health and Welfare, 2014). For certain families facing a cancer diagnosis, communication helps them cope together and support each other emotionally and physically, from diagnosis through treatment. Additionally, family communication enhances cancer knowledge, awareness and prevention behaviors among these family members. However, the topic of breast cancer may alter the usual boundaries of communication between family members due to various factors.

This dissertation investigates communication between Taiwanese mothers with breast cancer and their daughters, as well as the potential influence of such communication on daughters’ cancer prevention attitudes and behaviors. The study’s research design employs a concurrent quantitative-dominant mixed method design in which both quantitative and qualitative data were collected and analyzed at the same time (Powell, et al., 2008).

The qualitative research consisted of twenty-two in-depth interviews that were conducted between May and July 2014, including fifteen breast cancer mothers and seven daughters of breast cancer patients/survivors. Seven themes emerged from breast cancer mothers’ interview data and two themes from daughters’ interview data that demonstrated different levels of factors that influence mothers’ self-disclosure intention and behaviors. The quantitative research consisted of a survey instrument in which 244 participants filled out their information. The survey was conducted between June and October 2014 and included 164 breast cancer mothers and 80 daughters. Multiple regression and logistic regression were used to examine the influence of different levels of factors on mother-daughter breast cancer communication and daughters’ prevention behaviors. 

Results reveal that breast cancer mothers’ self-disclosure was influenced by individual, relational, and cultural factors, such as their cancer stage when they were first diagnosed with breast cancer, financial pressure, their dependency on the daughters and their daughter’s maturity, religion, and support groups engagement. Additionally, their role as mothers heavily affected their disclosure, limiting it because of their intense worry of the disclosure’s possible negative impact on their daughters. Yet, mothers’ suggestions/advice did have significant influence on their daughters’ prevention behaviors.

The study’s findings suggest that the Taiwanese government, health professionals, and support groups can all play an integral part in influencing the breast cancer mothers to establish open cancer family communication and understand its importance to the family relationship. Despite the increase in diversity in the U.S, little is known about these factors in intercultural settings. This research will fill an intercultural niche in both health and family communication research by providing an opportunity to increase understanding of how people from East Asian cultures employ communication strategies when facing difficult and controversial health topics.