Youngmee Kim, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Psychology
Description of Research
Dr. Kim's research focuses on various aspects of quality of life of cancer survivors and their family members and close friends, such as psychological and spiritual adjustment, coping with caregiving stress, gender, relationship quality, and cancer preventive behaviors. Her program of research aims to (a) examine the psychosocial, physical, spiritual, and biobehavioral impact of cancer on the family at a national, as well as community level, and (b) develop programs and services to assist them in meeting their needs and to promote healthy lifestyle behaviors among cancer survivors as well as their family and friends.
Dr. Kim's research on close relationships and the family has examined cancer patients and their family members. She has focused primarily on identifying those in the family who would be vulnerable to adverse psychological and physical impacts from cancer, versus those who would find meaning in providing care to a relative with cancer. She has also tried to disentangle psychosocial factors that predict adjustment to cancer in the family. The findings help identify caregivers who are more vulnerable to poor quality of life when facing cancer due to their social and personal resources. Those caregivers should be targeted for individualized coping training programs as well as for programs and services designed to assist them to meet their needs, to best recruit support from their social network to reduce caregiving burden, and to find meaning in their caregiving experiences.
Cancer imposes challenges not only on the individual diagnosed with cancer, but also on their family members. Although existing studies have documented the challenges associated with providing care to cancer survivors in various aspects of quality of life, large gaps in knowledge remain in particular areas, such as behavioral and physical aspects. Although there are similarities in caregiving to persons with Alzheimer’s disease and cancer, cancer caregiving imposes unique sets of burdens, compared with dementia caregiving, namely, the acute yet intensive nature of cancer caregiving. Thus, her current studies examine the extent to which cancer caregiving-related stress/experience relates to the caregivers’ physical health outcomes. The findings from this proposed study will provide preliminary support for developing a comprehensive biobehavioral model of cancer caregiving.
In addition, persons with a family history of colorectal cancer are at higher risk of developing such cancer. Therefore such individuals are strongly recommended to engage in or maintain cancer preventive behaviors, including cancer screenings, healthy diet, and physical activity, earlier than individuals with no history. Thus, another current study is to document the prevalence of cancer preventive behaviors among survivors of colorectal cancer who are in the transition phase from treatment to survivorship of the illness trajectory, and their family members; and to investigate the effectiveness of Internet-based intervention for both the patients and their families, for the purpose of changing multiple behaviors that are known to be related to major chronic disease, including colorectal cancer.
These findings will lead Dr.Kim to longer-term research goals to develop tailored comprehensive interventions for the family, and to provide evidence to guide structured changes in the health care delivery system.
- Cancer caregiving, compared with other types of caregiving, is acute yet intensive, which is associated with greater levels of psychological distress and physical strain, that are equivalent to those of caregivers of individuals with dementia.
- Although husband caregivers in general reported lower levels of caregiving stress, when they provided care to their wives with poorer psychosocial functioning, they reported greater stress from caregiving.
- In addition to each person’s psychological distress that was the strongest predictor of their own quality of life, partner’s distress and (dis)similarity in distress of the couple also played significant roles in one’s quality of life. The adverse effect of having a partner who was less emotionally resourceful was especially pronounced on men’s physical health
- Not only cancer survivors, but also their family caregivers found meaning from their cancer experience. While such experience has diverse aspects, not all related to indicators of better adjustment, such as higher satisfaction with life and lower depressive symptoms.
Selected Cancer-Related Publications
- Kim Y, Kashy DA, Kaw CK, Smith T, Spillers RL. Sampling in population-based cancer caregivers research. Qual Life Res 18:981-9,2009. Read more »
Collaborating in the Multidisciplinary Research Program(s):