Document Type



Audrey Zakriski

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This paper may only be accessed on the Connecticut College campus.


Previous identity development-related research has provided specialized, non-normative identity development trajectories, yet no models exploring the particular identity development of people who had cancer during childhood or adolescence exist. As medical technologies have improved, survival rates have increased as well. This has resulted in 375,000 adult survivors of children’s cancer living in the United States as of 2019. Many of these survivors are people who had acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). Since ALL is the most common childhood cancer, there is some research in reference to it. However, most previous research focuses on family functioning, psychosocial late effects, and difficulties in coping. Therefore, research devoted to identity development of people who had ALL during childhood or adolescence is needed in order to assist people in their adjustment post-treatment. The Generalized Cancer Identity Development Model for People who had ALL in Childhood or Adolescence focused on capturing the experience of cancer-related identity formation in people who were diagnosed with ALL between infancy and 16 years of age. Using a mixed-method approach, the study examined whether the proposed model captured the general experience of people who had ALL in childhood or adolescence, as well as captured variability in experience in order to make the model more generalizable. Of the eight original statuses examined in the proposed model, “Gratitude” was found to be the most descriptive and “Trauma/Fear” was found to be the least descriptive. The eight statuses were modified and expanded to create a total of 13 statuses in the refined model. Additionally, results challenged the utilization of the term “cancer survivor” to identify individuals who have had ALL, as few participants embraced this term. The refined model would be useful to mental health and childhood cancer professionals, people who had ALL and their parents or caregivers for supporting healthy adjustment to cancer treatment and recovery over time.



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