• breast cancer;
  • decision making;
  • theory development;
  • stress and coping;
  • women

An embedded decisional model of stress and coping: implications for exploring treatment decision making by women with breast cancer

Treatment decision making by women with breast cancer has been recognized to be an inherently stressful process. However, past decisional theory and research has failed to fully elucidate the personal, transactional and relational nature of choice behaviour. The purpose of this paper is to explore an embedded decisional model of stress and coping that locates key assumptions of Janis and Mann’s conflict-theory model (CTM) of decision making within Lazarus and Folkman’s transactional framework. Through combining decisional and stress and coping theories, a model is developed that addresses the theoretical limitations of the CTM and provides greater specificity within decision-making research. The paper examines the complexity of treatment decision making within the context of the constructs of causal antecedents, primary appraisal, secondary appraisal, coping and adaptational outcomes. Examples specific to women with breast cancer are provided to illustrate the potential application of the embedded model. The implications of this inclusive and comprehensive decisional theory for future knowledge development and research in the area of treatment decision making are also discussed.