Off-campus UNL users: To download campus access dissertations, please use the following link to log into our proxy server with your NU ID and password. When you are done browsing please remember to return to this page and log out.

Non-UNL users: Please talk to your librarian about requesting this dissertation through interlibrary loan.

Balloons, Breadcrumbs, and Spoons: Emerging Adults’ Privacy Negotiation and Management of the (Non)Disclosure of Chronic Illness-Related Information with a Friend

Robert D Hall, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Emerging adults (EAs) experience many changes throughout this life-stage, characterized by self-focus, identity explorations, instability, in-betweenness, and possibilities of optimism (Arnett, 2014). As EAs transition from home of origin into independence, they may place more reliance on social networks apart from their family of origin (e.g., friends, Rawlins, 2009). Yet, chronically ill EAs may experience complications due to the biographical disruption, or interference of expectations in one’s life (Bury, 1982), particularly given that chronic illness is typically viewed as an elderly-related issue rather than occurring with youth (Kundrat & Nussbaum, 2003). Through transitions in the EA life-stage, EAs with chronic illness may forgo sharing chronic illness-relation information or withhold expressed desire for social support to appear more “normal” to fit in with their peers (Spencer et al., 2019). Thus, I centered the present study in Petronio’s (2002) Communication Privacy Management (CPM) theory to understand how EAs interact and negotiate (non)disclosure of chronic illness-related information with a friend. In the present interpretive and qualitative study, I analyzed and described how EAs interacted and negotiated the process of (non)disclosure of their chronic illness-related information with a friend. Data were 15 in-depth interviews and 15 book cover images to represent the experiences of EAs with chronic illness. In the results, I describe and explain how participants (a) engaged criteria for disclosure and identified the confidants of their disclosure, (b) created boundary rules around their chronic illness-related information, (c) perceived their friends’ role/non-role in chronic illness management, and (d) made sense of their chronic illness-related information management processes. I contribute four theoretical insights regarding CPM: (a) expanding confidant typology, (b) deconstructing disclosure criteria, (c) demonstrating dialectical tensions of private information disclosure, and (d) developing CPM concepts through metaphorical insights. I also offer two main practical implications: (a) creating a resource for EAs with chronic illness and (b) offering a strategy for arts-based therapeutic practice for those working with EAs experiencing biographic disruption.

Subject Area

Communication|Individual & family studies|Social psychology|Public health

Recommended Citation

Hall, Robert D, "Balloons, Breadcrumbs, and Spoons: Emerging Adults’ Privacy Negotiation and Management of the (Non)Disclosure of Chronic Illness-Related Information with a Friend" (2022). ETD collection for University of Nebraska-Lincoln. AAI29256413.