“I have cancer” : understanding the decision to disclose to family members using the theory of motivated information management
Disclosure is considered a form of information management (Petronio, 2002) and illness disclosures are distinctly different than secrets or other types of information in need of management (Greene, 2009). An emerging communication theory, the Theory of Motivated Information Management (TMIM; Afifi & Weiner, 2004), provides a nuanced framework for describing the multifaceted cognitive and communicative components of information management. The present study aims to investigate cancer disclosures as a motivated information management process experienced by the information provider, the cancer patient. An exploratory study conducted by Nelson & Donovan (2014) demonstrated evidence that cancer disclosures can be characterized as information management and that information providers' experiences parallel phases of the information management process, which is an area of the TMIM yet to be explored. Individuals who have been diagnosed with cancer at some point in their life (N = 137) completed an online survey regarding the cognitions and emotions they recalled having prior to disclosing their diagnosis to a particular family member. Results indicate that cancer patients experience the cognitive assessments of TMIM, which influence the disclosure characteristics of open communication and topic avoidance. A model for the information provider's TMIM process is supported, demonstrating the applicability of TMIM to information provision in the context of illness disclosures.