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Health Psychol. 2015 May;34(5):486-95. doi: 10.1037/hea0000218. Epub 2015 Mar 2.

Dyadic coping within couples dealing with breast cancer: A longitudinal, population-based study.

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National Research Center for Cancer Rehabilitation, Research Unit of General Practice, Department of Public Health, University of Southern Denmark.
Center for Clinical Epidemiology, Odense University Hospital.
Department of Breast Surgery, Herlev Hospital, University of Copenhagen.
Finsen Center, Rigshospitalet, University of Copenhagen.
Health Sciences/Health Psychology, University Medical Center Groningen, University of Groningen.



The way couples deal with stressors is likely to influence their adjustment after breast cancer diagnosis. Based on the systemic-transactional model, this study examined whether the supportive, delegated and negative dyadic coping provided by patients and partners and their common dyadic coping as a couple were associated with change in relationship quality and depressive symptoms over time.


Women with breast cancer and their male partners (N = 538 couples) participated in a longitudinal study (Time 1, ≤ 4 months after surgery; Time 2, 5 months later). Dyadic coping was assessed using the Dyadic Coping Inventory (Bodenmann, 2008). The Center for Epidemiologic Studies-Depression Scale (Radloff, 1977) and the Relationship Ladder (Kuijer, Buunk, De Jong, Ybema, & Sanderman, 2004) measured depressive symptoms and relationship quality, respectively.


Negative dyadic coping was adversely associated with both patients' and partners' outcomes. The more patients rated the couple as engaging in common dyadic coping, the higher relationship quality and the fewer depressive symptoms both patients and partners experienced. Patients experienced more depressive symptoms the more delegated coping (i.e., taking over tasks) they provided to the partner. Partners experienced fewer depressive symptoms the more delegated coping they provided to the patient, but more depressive symptoms the more supportive coping the patient provided to them.


This study has contributed to disentangling how dyadic coping behaviors influence couples' adjustment. Interventions may focus on reducing negative dyadic coping and strengthening common dyadic coping, and be attentive to the different effects of dyadic coping on patients and partners.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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