Does a Cancer Diagnosis Moderate the Effect of Perceived Partner Social Support and Social Constraint on Marital Satisfaction and Posttraumatic Growth? A Study of Social Support and Social Constraint
The long-term effects of breast cancer are life altering for most survivors and their partners, especially for cancer survivors diagnosed at age 45 or younger (Avis, Crawford, & Manuel, 2005; Stanton, Danoff-Burg, & Huggins, 2002). However, it is unclear whether the relationship functioning and psychological health of younger breast cancer survivors are similar to younger women who have not experienced breast cancer. The goal of this cross sectional study was to examine first whether cancer status (cancer versus non-cancer) moderated the relationship between perceived partner social constraint and social support, and marital satisfaction. The second goal was to examine whether cancer status moderated the relationship between perceived partner social constraint and social support, and posttraumatic growth. Two hundred sixty seven cancer survivors, three to eight years from diagnosis, and three hundred eight age-matched non-cancer survivors participated in the study. Results showed cancer status moderated the relationship between social constraint and marital satisfaction, in a way that did not support our hypothesis. Social constraint had little relationship with survivors' marital satisfaction, and a negative relationship with non-cancer controls' marital satisfaction. Findings also showed social support moderated the relationship between social support and posttraumatic growth. Though we hypothesized social support would be more positively associated with posttraumatic growth for cancer survivors than non-cancer controls, results revealed the opposite. Overall, the research suggests that breast cancer survivors do benefit from more social support and less social constraint. However, social support and social constraint may not impact marital satisfaction and posttraumatic growth in younger breast cancer survivors as we originally hypothesized. Future research should investigate other factors that may be impacting the survivor's marital satisfaction and posttraumatic growth outside of social support and social constraint (e.g. support outside of the marital relationship, functional impairment, etc.), and use longitudinal designs to look at changes in study variables over time.
Shields, Purdue University.
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