“It’s your turn to step into their shoes”

Leonor Rodriguez (UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre, National University of Ireland, Galway, Ireland)
Pat Dolan (UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre, National University of Ireland, Galway, Ireland)

Qualitative Research Journal

ISSN: 1443-9883

Publication date: 24 July 2019



The purpose of this paper is to evaluate the role of empathy in adolescents coping with maternal cancer to identify passive and active empathy forms and the role of these in adolescent coping at a challenging time.


This study was a secondary content analysis carried out on 15 adolescent interviews that were analysed to find the evidence of empathy in active and passive forms. Adolescents were between 14 and 20 years of age, their mothers were diagnosed with cancer in the previous 24 months to the interview.


The analysis identified more evidence of active forms of empathy than passive directed at ill mothers and their families as helpful behaviours and emotional support. Passive empathy was experienced by adolescents who did not have major changes in their daily routines because of maternal cancer. Both passive and active empathy were perceived as coping mechanisms. Maternal illness motivated adolescents’ empathy and encouraged actions to support their mothers, immediate and extended families.


Empathy is complex but can be important for adolescent development including their social skills and relationships; however, research has not evaluated the role of empathy in adolescents experiencing maternal cancer.



Rodriguez, L. and Dolan, P. (2019), "“It’s your turn to step into their shoes”", Qualitative Research Journal, Vol. 19 No. 3, pp. 213-224. https://doi.org/10.1108/QRJ-D-18-00045

Download as .RIS



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

Please note you might not have access to this content

You may be able to access this content by login via Shibboleth, Open Athens or with your Emerald account.
If you would like to contact us about accessing this content, click the button and fill out the form.
To rent this content from Deepdyve, please click the button.