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Severe illness and death in the family context: the contributions of theoretical models and integrative approaches to the advancement of research

Diane Laflamme, Joseph Josy Lévy

There is much contemporary research concerning the theoretical, methodological and empirical aspects of the issues surrounding severe illness and death experienced in the family context. This text will offer an assessment of the oft-overlapping theoretical perspectives on these two topics, through a review of current literature. Theoretical models that are mainly sociological and psychosocial can be divided into the following categories: qualitative inductive approaches that lead to integrative models; hypothetical-deductive approaches that organize specific factors into models and verify them through quantitative measures and statistic procedures. Adding to these theoretical approaches, one finds systemic approaches concerning resilience, coping and meaning-making, as well as those that rest on integrative processes, such as the dual process model of coping. This overview of background theory, concepts and key assumptions will highlight the wealth of current research and its contribution to the understanding of family networks that are confronted to major crisis demanding a reorganization of relational configurations and the finding of adaptive resources to make it through hard times.