Psychological distress in couples coping with cancer: the influence of social support and attachment
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Science
The current study examined psychological distress in couples coping with a cancer diagnosis. Although it is widely recognised that spouses coping with a cancer diagnosis are at risk of psychological distress, debate exists within the literature regarding the amount of distress experienced by individuals, and about who is most at risk. Fifty-five couples coping with a cancer diagnosis completed questionnaires assessing psychological distress, social support and attachment style characteristics. Results indicated that partners psychological distress levels were more influenced by social support and attachment characteristics than patients were. Partners of those with cancer, who were higher on the insecure attachment dimensions, perceived providing and receiving less support and were less satisfied with support overall compared to less insecure partners. In addition to this, partner social support was significantly related to psychological distress, and attachment style was found to moderate this relationship. Specifically, partners were more vulnerable to psychological distress when they were higher on the insecure attachment dimensions and when support satisfaction was low or when they had a perception of low support receipt. Contrary to expectations, there were no significant findings for the patient group. Explanations and implications are discussed.