Health and Illness in Close Relationships: Unpacking Complexities | 2/20 | CMU 126 | 3:30-5PM

Dr. Duggan is drawn to researching the context of health and illness because of the vulnerabilities that require us to reconsider assumptions and expectations. She says that when we face serious illness, changes in ourselves and in our close relationships often unfold differently from how we anticipate. Dealing with serious illness brings an increased sense of vulnerability, but also can bring opportunities to heal and grow.

For more than twenty years, Dr. Duggan has integrated her research in communication processes into health-care conversations and decisions. She has been included in vulnerable conversations people have with health providers, family members, and close friends navigating illness. These conversations are sometimes difficult or painful, and the conversations sometimes evoke closeness and newfound intimacy. She has come to understand that in many friendships and close relationships that indicate a depth of intimacy, people have been there for each other in the disorienting moments of diagnosis or in the decision-making about next steps in treatment (or forgoing treatment). Dr. Duggan has also come to see differently how her own understanding of research and relationships continues to evolve, how the current answers also translate into new questions.

During February’s colloquium, she will share her thoughts and research on foundations of health and illness in close relationships and unpack the complexities in relationship processes and health disparities.

Presenter Biography:

Ashley P. Duggan (Ph.D., University of California, Santa Barbara 2003) is Associate Professor in the Communication Department and in the Medical Humanities program at Boston College.  Her research is systematically institutionalized in theoretical and empirical projects aimed at improving relationship-centered healthcare. She is co-director (with Allen Shaughnessy at Tufts University School of Medicine) of a recently formed Communication and Family Medicine Research Institute, a collaborative between Tufts University School of Medicine and Boston College.

Duggan is a social scientist who conducts multi-method research investigating the intersections of interpersonal communication processes, health, and relationships.  Her research addresses how communication behavior predicts health outcomes in doctor-patient interactions, the influence process of individuals in close relationships trying to alter health behaviors, and how relationship dynamics shape the meaning of communication. Her most recent project is a book on “Health and Illness in Close Relationships” in press with Cambridge University Press in their advances in personal relationships series in collaboration with the International Association for Relationship Research.