Award Date

December 2015

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Marriage and Family Therapy

First Committee Member

Stephen Fife

Second Committee Member

Katherine Hertlein

Third Committee Member

Colleen Peterson

Fourth Committee Member

Jason Holland

Number of Pages



Experiencing the death of a loved one can be traumatic and painful to anyone. Adolescents in particular experience death in a unique way, during a time in their lives when they are developing their own autonomy and independence. Experiencing the deteriorating conditions of a terminally ill parent may affect an adolescent in many ways. However, there is relatively little research on adolescent involvement in the medical setting during a parent’s terminal illness and how this may affect the adolescent’s bereavement. This qualitative study utilized heuristic inquiry and procedures of Grounded Theory to investigate factors influencing the involvement in the hospital setting during parental terminal illness and factors influencing the grieving process. Four factors were identified to influence the involvement in the hospital setting of an adolescent during parental illness: family structure, communication, age, and realization of the severity of the diagnosis. Five factors influencing grief were also identified: hospital environment, availability of support, knowing the prognosis of the ill parent, loss of the parent before the actual death, and a need for more education from the medical professionals about the diagnosis.

Implications for mental health practitioners and medical professionals include education on how to work collaboratively to understand and meet the needs of family members of terminally ill patients and how to effectively communicate with them.


Biological Psychology | Social and Behavioral Sciences

File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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