The role of attachment dimensions and perceived social support in predicting adjustment to cancer



Objective: Several studies carried out over the last years show that patients' adjustment is very important to the past experiences of people with cancer. In our study of 96 subjects with cancer, we examined whether patient's working model of attachment anxiety/avoidance and perceptions of social support predicts adjustment to cancer.

Methods: All participants filled in a demographic questionnaire, the Relationship Scale Questionnaire (RSQ), the Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support (MSPSS), and the Mental Adjustment to Cancer (MAC).

Results: Anxious attachment predicted psychological adjustment: patients with high levels of anxious attachment showed high levels of helplessness/hopelessness and anxious preoccupation (p<0.01, and p<0.05, respectively). With regard to the function of perceived social support, the patient's perception of social support from friends was predictive of both fighting spirit and stoic acceptance (p=0.01, and p<0.001, respectively). Conversely, the patient's perception of support from family members was not predictive of adjustment to cancer. Patients in the advanced stages of the illness showed higher levels of helplessness/hopelessness (p<0.05).

Conclusions: Anxious attachment and perceived social support predicted different domains of psychological adjustment to cancer. Perceived support from friends may predict the patient's tendency to consider cancer as a challenge and to take an active role in therapy and recovery, whereas social support from family was not predictive of various states of adjustment to cancer. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.