This study investigates how social support and family relationship perceptions influence breast cancer patients’ online communication networks in a computer-mediated social support (CMSS) group. To examine social interactions in the CMSS group, we identified two types of online social networks: open and targeted communication networks. The open communication network reflects group communication behaviors (i.e., one-to-many or “broadcast” communication) in which the intended audience is not specified; in contrast, the targeted communication network reflects interpersonal discourses (i.e., one-to-one or directed communication) in which the audience for the message is specified. The communication networks were constructed by tracking CMSS group usage data of 237 breast cancer patients who participated in one of two National Cancer Institute-funded randomized clinical trials. Eligible subjects were within 2 months of a diagnosis of primary breast cancer or recurrence at the time of recruitment. Findings reveal that breast cancer patients who perceived less availability of offline social support had a larger social network size in the open communication network. In contrast, those who perceived less family cohesion had a larger targeted communication network in the CMSS group, meaning they were inclined to use the CMSS group for developing interpersonal relationships.

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Published in Health Communication, v. 32, issue 11, p. 1422-1429.

© 2017 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC

The copyright holder has granted the permission for posting the article here.

This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Health Communication on 08 Nov 2016, available online: http://www.tandfonline.com/10.1080/10410236.2016.1230808.

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Funding Information 

Grant funding for this study is from the National Cancer Institute (P50 CA095817-05).