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J Fam Psychol. 2007 Sep;21(3):380-8.

Protective buffering and psychological distress among couples coping with breast cancer: The moderating role of relationship satisfaction.

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  • 1Population Science Division, Fox Chase Cancer Center, Philadelphia, PA 19111, USA.


This study examined whether the association between protective buffering and psychological distress was moderated by relationship satisfaction. Protective buffering is defined as hiding worries, denying concerns, and yielding to one's partner in an effort to avoid disagreement and reduce one's partner's upset and burden. Two hundred thirty-five women diagnosed with early stage breast cancer and their partners completed measures of protective buffering, psychological distress, and relationship satisfaction at 3 time points over an 18-month period after cancer diagnosis. The authors hypothesized that protective buffering would result in more distress among patients and partners reporting higher relationship satisfaction than among patients and partners reporting lower levels of relationship satisfaction. Patients' protective buffering predicted more distress among patients rating their relationships as more satisfactory, whereas the patients' buffering did not predict distress among patients rating their relationships as less satisfactory. Partner relationship satisfaction also moderated the association between patients' buffering and partners' distress. These findings elucidate conditions under which protective buffering may have detrimental effects.

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