Introduction: The diagnosis and subsequent treatment for early stage breast cancer is stressful for partners. Little is known about the role of cognitive and social processes predicting the longitudinal course of partners' psychosocial adaptation. This study evaluated the role of cognitive and social processing in partner psychological adaptation to early stage breast cancer, evaluating both main and moderator effect models. Moderating effects for meaning making, acceptance, and positive reappraisal on the predictive association of searching for meaning, emotional processing, and emotional expression on partner psychological distress were examined.
Materials and methods: Partners of women diagnosed with early stage breast cancer were evaluated shortly after the ill partner's diagnosis (N=253), 9 (N=167), and 18 months (N=149) later. Partners completed measures of emotional expression, emotional processing, acceptance, meaning making, and general and cancer-specific distress at all time points.
Results: Lower satisfaction with partner support predicted greater global distress, and greater use of positive reappraisal was associated with greater distress. The predicted moderator effects for found meaning on the associations between the search for meaning and cancer-specific distress were found and similar moderating effects for positive reappraisal on the associations between emotional expression and global distress and for acceptance on the association between emotional processing and cancer-specific distress were found.
Conclusions: Results indicate several cognitive-social processes directly predict partner distress. However, moderator effect models in which the effects of partners' processing depends upon whether these efforts result in changes in perceptions of the cancer experience may add to the understanding of partners' adaptation to cancer.