The relation between perceived inequity, marital satisfaction and emotions among couples facing cancer


Department of Psychology, University of Canterbury, Private Bag 4800, Christchurch, New Zealand (e-mail:


The central aim of the present study was to examine if equity theory still applies to intimate relationships when couples are confronted with a serious illness. Equity concerns were examined among 68 cancer patients and their partners. Contrary to our expectations, only male patients on average felt overbenefited in their relationship, whereas female patients on average felt equitably treated. Moreover, it was found that the partners of these patients did not, as was expected, feel underbenefited in their relationship. The main focus of the present study was on the association between perceived equity on the one hand and relationship satisfaction and emotions on the other. It was found that in general patients seemed most sensitive to underbenefit (i.e. they felt least satisfied), and experienced on average least positive and most negative affect when they felt underbenefited. Particularly, patients who were physically impaired felt dissatisfied and angry when underbenefited. The partners of these patients were in general equally sensitive to inequity in both directions, regardless of their ill partner's physical condition.