Posttraumatic growth in cancer patients and partners—effects of role, gender and the dyad on couples' posttraumatic growth experience

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Abstract

Background/Aim: Little is known about factors influencing positive effects in couples facing a cancer diagnosis.

Methods: A heterogeneous sample of 224 couples from a multi-site study (four oncology units) completed questionnaire surveys including the Posttraumatic Growth Inventory (PTGI) as a measure of positive psychological effects.

Results: The data demonstrated that all three investigated factors—gender, role (patient vs partner) and the dyad (belonging to any of the 224 couples)—significantly contributed to variation in PTGI total scores and subscales. Variability between couples (factor dyad) appeared stronger than variability between patient and partner participants (factor role) and between male and female participants (factor gender). Role and gender analysis showed that patients demonstrated higher levels of posttraumatic growth than partners; and female participants scored higher on PTGI than males. Male patient–female partner pairs show greater association in their experience of posttraumatic growth than female patient–male partner pairs. Correlations also suggested that, regardless of the gender and role composition, patients and partners may experience parallel growth.

Conclusions: Our findings indicate that positive psychological experiences may be shared by partners affected by cancer in similar ways as have been shown for negative psychological effects. Intra-couple similarities or processes may have a more important function in experiencing benefits than factors like gender or being the patient or the partner. These results underline the importance of a family approach to understanding negative and positive psychological effects of cancer. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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