Publication Date



Open access

Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)


Psychology (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Alexandra L. Quittner

Second Committee Member

Rebecca Shearer

Third Committee Member

Batya Elbaum

Fourth Committee Member

Amanda Jensen Doss

Fifth Committee Member

Neena Malik


This is the first qualitative study to examine the social support functions of a social networking website for adolescents with Cystic Fibrosis (CF) over an academic year. Patients with CF are segregated and not allowed to meet face-to-face; this networking site was evaluated as an alternative for providing peer support. Age and gender differences in website usage were examined in participants enrolled in the CFfone study. Thematic analyses were used to examine the provision of four types of social support: companionship, emotional, informational, and instrumental, in relation to topics raised on the website. Results suggested that adolescents used the website most often to provide companionship support in relation to typical adolescent issues, such as school and pop culture. Gender and age differences were found in the frequency and function of website usage; however, the topics of discussion (non CF-related vs. CF-related) did not differ. Clinical implications and directions for future research on the use of social networking websites for adolescents with chronic illnesses are discussed.


Cystic Fibrosis; Adolescents; Chronic Illness; Online Social Networking; Social Support