Objectives: To understand how patients, doctors, and families see, form, and commit to relationship and how power and gender influence their interpersonal processes and meanings.

Methods: Grounded theory methodology was used. There were six family medicine physicians, ten patients, and ten family members who participated. Physicians, patients, and family members were matched.

Results: Four themes emerged: types of patient-doctor-family relationships (extended family and traditional), types of care (relationship-centered care (RCC), family-oriented care (FOC), whole-person care (WPC), and patient-centered care (PCC)), commitment and intimacy, and interpersonal processes (perception of relationship shape, bonding, confidence and trust, equality and partnership, mutuality, and shared story). Results showed that patient-doctor-family relationships that were viewed as extended family relationships were associated with RCC, FOC, and WPC, sustained commitment and genuine intimacy, and a circle relationship shape. Patient-doctor-family relationships that were viewed as traditional relationships were associated with PCC, limited commitment and pseudo intimacy, and a triangle relationship shape.

Discussion: Findings revealed the significance of the patient-doctor-family relationship in healthcare not previously identified. The themes of intimacy and commitment also have not been previously associated with the patient-doctor-family relationship and healthcare.

Practice Implications: Medical family therapists may find it beneficial to consider the level of intimacy and commitment in the patient-doctor-family relationship in order to better plan collaboration strategies.

LLU Discipline

Marital and Family Therapy


Marital and Family Therapy


School of Science and Technology

First Advisor

Carmen Knudson-Martin

Second Advisor

Douglas Huenergardt

Third Advisor

Mary E. Moline

Fourth Advisor

Betty J. Winslow

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Level


Year Degree Awarded


Date (Title Page)




Library of Congress/MESH Subject Headings

Physician-Patient Relations; Professional-Family Relations; Professional Role; Patient Satisfaction; Gender Identity.



Page Count

x; 149

Digital Format


Digital Publisher

Loma Linda University Libraries

Usage Rights

This title appears here courtesy of the author, who has granted Loma Linda University a limited, non-exclusive right to make this publication available to the public. The author retains all other copyrights.


Loma Linda University Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Collection Website



Loma Linda University. Del E. Webb Memorial Library. University Archives