Partner adjustment and response to young women with breast cancer
Templeton, George Bowden
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Illness is a universal experience for families. In recent decades, increased attention has been paid to the role of the family in chronic illness and disability, as well as the impact of illness throughout the entire family system. The quality of relationships is being increasingly identified as a source of considerable influence in health and related adjustment. Drawing on a biopsychosocial framework (Rolland, 1994a, 1994b; Engel, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980), the purpose of this research was to examine the impact of breast cancer on partners, identify factors associated with partner adjustment, and describe profiles of supportive partners. To address these aims, two related studies were conducted. Study one reviewed literature examining the adjustment of partners to the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer and answered two questions: (a) Do partners of women with BCA experience adjustment difficulties? and (b)What factors are associated with partner adjustment? This review determined that (a) partners experience physical health declines and are at risk for compromised immune functioning, (b) partners experience psychological distress that equal or exceeds that of patients, (c) partner experience disruptions at home, work, and in social activities, and (d) partners experience problems in their sexual relationship. Correlates of partner adjustment included medical characteristics, coping strategies, thought content, communication patterns, and social support. Study two investigated behaviors that young women perceive as supportive from their partners and factors that predicted partner support. Two questions were answered: (a) What partner behaviors do young women with BCA perceive as supportive? and (b) What factors predict the likelihood of partners being perceived as supportive? To address these questions, a series of two-step cluster analyses developed profiles of perceived partner behaviors in response to breast cancer, revealing two distinct groups: supportive and non-supportive. Binomial logistic regression determined that increases in patient symptom severity and psychological distress were associated with increased likelihood of patients perceiving partners as supportive, by factors of 1.83 and 1.97, respectively. In addition, patients reporting increased disruption of family life and their sexual relationship were less likely to perceive their partners as supportive, by factors of .28 and .35, respectively.