Investigating Initial Disclosures and Reactions to Unexpected, Positive HPV Diagnosis

Rachel A. Smith, Rachael Hernandez, Danielle Catona

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Initial disclosures of health conditions are critical communication moments. Existing research focuses on disclosers; integrating confidants into studies of initial disclosures is needed. Guided by the disclosure decision-making model (DD-MM; Greene, 2009), this study examined what diagnosed persons and confidants may say when faced with unexpected test results and unexpected disclosures, respectively. Participants (N = 151) recorded an audiovisual message for another person, after imagining that they or the other person had just received unexpected, positive HPV test results. The qualitative analysis revealed four themes: (1) impression management and social distance, (2) invisible symptoms and advice regarding future disclosures, (3) expressing and acknowledging emotional reactions, and (4) misunderstandings and lacking knowledge about HPV. These findings suggested that DD-MM may be a relevant framework for understanding not only when disclosers share, but what disclosers and confidants say in early conversations about new diagnoses. While disclosers' and confidants' messages showed marked similarities, important differences appeared. For example, confidants focused on assuaging disclosers' fear about the consequences, whereas disclosers expressed distress related to their uncertainty about the prognosis of an HPV infection and how to prepare for next steps. The discussion highlighted implications for the DD-MM, HPV disclosures, and future interventions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)426-440
Number of pages15
JournalWestern Journal of Communication
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Communication


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