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J Fam Psychol. 2014 Apr;28(2):214-24. doi: 10.1037/a0036053. Epub 2014 Mar 10.

Unsupportive partner behaviors, social-cognitive processing, and psychological outcomes in couples coping with early stage breast cancer.

Author information

  • 1Department of Population Science, Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey.
  • 2Department of Psychology, Michigan State University.
  • 3Christiana Care Health System and Helen F. Graham Cancer Center.
  • 4Cancer Prevention and Control Program, Fox Chase Cancer Center.


This study examined associations between partner unsupportive behaviors, social and cognitive processing, and adaptation in patients and their spouses using a dyadic and interdependent analytic approach. Women with early stage breast cancer (N = 330) and their spouses completed measures of partner unsupportive behavior, maladaptive social (holding back sharing concerns) and cognitive processing (mental disengagement and behavioral disengagement), and global well-being and cancer distress. Results indicated that both individuals' reports of unsupportive partner behavior were associated with their own holding back and their partners' holding back. Similar actor and partner effects were found between unsupportive behavior and behavioral disengagement. However, both patients' and partners' mental disengagement were associated only with their own unsupportive behavior. Together, holding back, mental disengagement, and behavioral disengagement accounted for one third of the association between partner unsupportive behavior and well-being and one half of the association between partner unsupportive behavior and intrusive thoughts. These results suggest that couples' communication and processing of cancer should be viewed from a dyadic perspective because couples' perceptions of one another's unsupportive behaviors may have detrimental effects on both partners' social and cognitive processing as well as their adaptation.

PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved.

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