Situational and Dispositional Goal Adjustment in the Context of Metastatic Cancer


  • This research was supported by funds from the California Breast Cancer Research Program of the University of California, Grant Number 10IB-0079 and the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center (to A. L. Stanton).
  • The authors have no financial disclosures to report.
  • We are grateful to Carol Ryff for her consultation on adapting her Well-Being measure (Ryff, 1989). We also wish to acknowledge all participants involved in this study and the medical staff who aided in recruitment.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Annette L. Stanton, Department of Psychology, 1285 Franz Hall, Box 951563, UCLA, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1563. Email:


Striving toward goals is associated with higher levels of subjective well-being; however, many potential roadblocks to goal achievement exist. The current study extends the understanding of goal regulation processes in its examination of the relationships between dispositional and situational goal adjustment to a profound stressor and their associations with psychological adjustment. Women (N = 103; M age = 57.2 years; 82% Caucasian) with metastatic breast cancer completed semistructured interviews and self-report measures at study entry and 3 months later. Measures of dispositional and situational goal reengagement were significantly correlated, but dispositional and situational goal disengagement were unrelated. Greater dispositional and situational goal disengagement abilities were associated with fewer cancer-related intrusive thoughts at Time 1. Dispositional and situational reengagement were positively associated with life satisfaction and sense of purpose and negatively associated with depressive symptoms at Time 1. However, greater initial situational goal disengagement predicted an increase in depressive symptoms over time. Both how an individual typically responds to goal blockage, as well as how an individual is currently responding to a specific blocked goal, appear related to psychological adjustment.