A Qualitative Application of Problematic Integration Theory: Studying End-of-Life Conversations Between Spouses


Our case study describes the collaborative work of three researchers in conducting a qualitative study on conversations between spouses about end-of-life care preferences. A spouse plays a significant role in decision making about end-of-life care for his or her partner. Thus, communication about end-of-life care preferences is central to ensuring that individuals’ wishes are fulfilled. The study involved analyzing spouses’ reasons for seeking and avoiding conversations about their marital partners’ end-of-life care preferences. Here, we emphasize the key steps of our study, completed for a graduate-level seminar, including how to select an appropriate interpersonal communication theory (i.e., problematic integration theory) to guide the research process, as well as important considerations when collecting and analyzing data in a short time period. We also present other practical lessons learned from studying spousal end-of-life communication using a qualitative, collaborative approach.

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