About the Lab

Welcome to the Family · Health · Lifespan Communication Lab

Using a lifespan, developmental lens, we focus on the fundamental role of family communication to health and wellness in both familial and clinical settings. We believe that at the root of health is how we are communicating. The primary mission of the Family · Health · Lifespan Communication Lab is to help facilitate healthy communication practice at home and in the clinical setting. The central goals of the lab are:

  1. To investigate behaviors that can foster healthier family communication practice at home during stressful health experiences (e.g., cultivating openness, respecting privacy, learning to cope together, providing helpful support, navigating challenging conversations)
  2. To promote the development of healthier communication patterns across generations of family
  3. To identify communication strategies to enhance provider-patient-family communication and promote better health outcomes (e.g., engaging patients in treatment or care plans; facilitating medical decisions; enhancing patient-family communication about health)
  4. To capture developmental diversity in health and communication needs, by focusing on human development, generational differences, and intergenerational relationships

Much of our research studies focus on women’s health (e.g., breast cancer), emerging adults (e.g., aged 18-29), and intergenerational relationships (e.g., parent-child; patient-provider). We investigate family communication in a multitude of health contexts (e.g., diabetes, tobacco, acupuncture, mental health, aging, primary care), with a primary focus on family cancer communication in the following three areas:

  1. Stress and Coping
  2. Health Promotion and Risk-Reducing Behavior
  3. Caregiving

Our work involves collaborative clinical teams that has included scientists from various fields (e.g., family and health communication/behavior, epidemiology, health informatics, psychology, public health) as well as diverse clinicians including oncologists, family medicine physicians, cancer navigators, nurses, psychologists, and genetic counselors. We actively collaborate with researchers at various institutions (universities, medical centers, the military, advocacy groups).

In our research, we value mixed-method designs, including a notable focus on multi-method qualitative designs to capture different types of narrative data (e.g., extracted from interviews, diaries, photographs) from various perspectives (e.g., patients, providers, family members). Our primary aim is to use lived, authentic narratives from patients, providers, and family members as behavioral modeling tools to help others learn how to engage in healthier communication strategies central to promoting healthier outcomes. Collectively, the research of this lab contributes knowledge critical for families coping with illness and facing disease risk, thereby bringing to the forefront the importance of family communication in healthcare practice and public health interventions.