Psychological Distress and Relationship Satisfaction in Cancer Patients and the Impact of Partners
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Science
This study examines psychological distress and relationship satisfaction in cancer patients and their partners. It is widely recognized that spouses coping with a cancer diagnosis are at risk of psychological distress, and changes in relationship satisfaction. Debate exists within the literature regarding the level of distress and satisfaction experienced by patients, and to what extent they are influenced by their partners. Twenty six couples coping with a breast or prostate cancer diagnosis, completed two questionnaires over six months assessing: psychological distress, relationship satisfaction, attachment style, self -esteem and matching of partner ideal standards. The cross-sectional results indicate that higher patient distress was associated with their own lower levels of self esteem, less secure, and more anxious attachment styles. Patient relationship satisfaction was increased in those with a less anxious attachment style and in patients who perceived their partner as matching more closely their own ideal standards and perceptions of the patients on vitality and attractiveness. Longitudinal results show an increase in patient distress was also predicted by their partner’s perceiving lower matching between their own ideal standards and perceptions of the patients on warmth and trustworthiness. Unexpectedly, higher relationship satisfaction over time, was also predicted by lower matching of their own ideal standards and perceptions of their partners on warmth and trustworthiness, as measured initially. An increase in patient satisfaction was also predicted over time when patient distress was low, self esteem high and they had higher matching between their own ideal standards and partner perceptions of the patient partner on both warmth and trustworthiness as well as vitality and attractiveness. Explanations for the results, together with clinical and research implications are discussed.