Finding meaning: Antecedents of uncertainty in illness

Merle H. Mishel, Carrie Jo Braden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


In this study a portion of the uncertainty in illness model was tested. Antecedents to uncertainty tested were the stimuli frame variables of symptom pattern and event familiarity and the structure provider variables of education, social support, and credible authority. Data were collected on a convenience sample of 61 women with gynecological cancer at the time of major treatment effect. Findings supported the proposed model with an empirically generated revised model presenting the influence of antecedents on specific areas of uncertainty. Divergent paths for reducing uncertainty were found. Social support, credible authority, and event familiarity had the greatest influence on lowering the level of uncertainty. Event familiarity and credible authority were primarily effective in reducing the complexity surrounding treatment and the system of care. Social support functioned to decrease the level of ambiguity concerning the state of the illness. Findings generally support the proposed explanation for uncertainty arousal and have substantive significance in identifying the sources of stimuli leading to uncertainty arousal and modification.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)99-127
Number of pages29
JournalNursing research
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1988
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Nursing


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