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Keywords:

  • cancer;
  • oncology;
  • posttraumatic growth;
  • social support;
  • social constraint

Abstract

Objective

The relation between posttraumatic growth (PTG) and aspects of the social context, such as social support and social constraint, continues to be unclear in cancer survivors. Social cognitive processing theory is a useful framework for examining the effect of the social context on PTG. In theory, support interactions may either facilitate or hinder cognitive processing and thus lead to different PTG outcomes. The current study tested the hypothesis that emotional support and instrumental support would each explain a unique amount of the variance in PTG in distressed hematopoietic stem cell transplant (HSCT) survivors. Additionally, it was predicted that social constraint on cancer-related disclosure would be negatively associated with PTG.

Methods

Forty-nine distressed HSCT survivors with a spouse or partner completed the posttraumatic growth inventory and measures of social support received from their spouse/partner and social constraint from people close to them as part of a larger clinical trial.

Results

Both emotional and instrumental social support were positively correlated with PTG, and social constraint on disclosure was not associated with PTG. Contrary to hypotheses, instrumental support was the only unique social contextual predictor of PTG.

Conclusions

The results of this study highlight the importance of examining the effects of subtypes of social support on PTG separately. Findings are discussed in the context of the cognitive (i.e., processing of the traumatic event) versus non-cognitive (i.e., buffering stress) pathways between the social context and PTG. Future research directions are presented. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.