Overview of Research

Mother with her two young daughters

“I didn’t really know how to react to it so I kind of hid from it, blocked it out of my mind... I pulled away ’cause that’s like the only thing I knew that I could do to help myself through it because I’d be a mental wreck... It was easier for me to just pretend nothing was happening...” —A late adolescent daughter of diagnosed mother (Research Participant)

In 2006, Carla L. Fisher, Ph.D. initiated the Mother-Daughter Breast Cancer Research Project to help mothers and daughters enhance their communication in an effort to improve their health and disease prevention. This research has been funded at the federal, local, and private levels and been recognized with national research awards. She is continuously adding to this research program and collaborating with health scholars and practitioners and various medical institutions, including Mayo Clinic and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

Fisher’s research program has embarked on multiple studies to explore mothers’ and daughters’ needs in terms of breast cancer coping and prevention. In all of these research studies, the team hears from both diagnosed women and their mothers or adult daughters at various phases of the disease trajectory as well as different developmental phases of life. The core of this research is to understand how mother-daughter communication can function both adaptively or maladaptively in women’s adjustment and prevention behavior. This focus has included examinations of emotional support communication (e.g., how to “be there” for one another), openness or disclosures (e.g., how to disclose or bring up difficult topics; what one shares or doesn’t and why), as well as complications in the mother-daughter bond associated with avoidant behavior (e.g., not wanting to talk about cancer).