Electronic Theses and Dissertations





Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Ed Psychology and Research


Educational Psychology

Committee Chair

Denise Winsor

Committee Member

Yeh Hsueh

Committee Member

Lisbeth Berbary


Childhood cancer is both a medical ailment and a cultural phenomenon created within dominant discursive notions of childhood/adulthood, health/illness, and life/death binaries. Research to date on the learning and development of children with cancer has primarily focused on quantifying the knowledge they possess about their illness and treatment and recommendations for medical staff based on the child's assumed capabilities and limitations. Little is known about how children with cancer actively negotiate discursive beliefs in this context. Therefore, the purpose of this Foucauldian (1970) post-structural case study research was to deconstruct the ways in which children with cancer learn about their diagnosis and treatment in the pediatric oncology hospital setting. Through interviews, observations, document analysis, and guided activities, three main themes were identified. First, "it's not supposed to be this way" illuminated the role of "the plan" in organizing patient care and relationships; second, "no interventions required" shed light on the role of the clinical gaze in disciplining the child's mind and body into alignment with normalized expectations of "Cancer patient." Third, "the good, the bad, and the bad bad bad bad: highlighted children's perceptions of the emotional dynamics of hospital communications and their implications for how, when, and by whom information in given. In light of these findings, it is important that medical and psychosocial professionals remain aware of the ways in which their practices may challenges or reinforce these discursive expectations, and the techniques children may use to enact resistance. By providing opportunities for children to learn about their illness in visual and child-centered ways, to explore their emotions through normative play and socialization opportunities, and to exercise power/resistance within the pediatric oncology hospital environment, space can be made for a new discourse on childhood cancer.


Data is provided by the student.

Library Comment

dissertation or thesis originally submitted to the local University of Memphis Electronic Theses & dissertation (ETD) Repository.