The Combined Contribution of Social Support and Coping Strategies in Predicting Post-Traumatic Growth: A Longitudinal Study on Cancer Patients

Psychooncology. 2011 Aug;20(8):823-31. doi: 10.1002/pon.1782. Epub 2010 Jun 3.


Objectives: The aim of this study is to investigate the role of social support and coping strategies in enhancing post-traumatic growth (PTG) in cancer patients. The study focused on both avoidance and approaching coping and on four distinct types of social support: (a) perceived availability, (b) actual received, (c) satisfaction with received support, and (d) the competence of caregiver to satisfy the patient's basic psychological needs of autonomy, competence, and relatedness.

Methods: A longitudinal study was conducted with a group of 41 cancer patients currently in the treatment and management phase of their illness. Data were collected by means of a written questionnaire, at two time points (T1 and T2) that were 6 months apart. Social support was assessed using the Interpersonal Support Evaluation List and the Need Satisfaction in Relationship Scale. Coping strategies were assessed using the Brief COPE questionnaire. Social support and coping strategies were assessed only at T1. PTG was assessed using the Post-Traumatic Growth Inventory at T1 and T2. Correlation and regression analyses were used to examine the association between social support and coping strategies with short-term reports of post-traumatic growth.

Results: Regression analyses showed that autonomy-supportive caregivers and a problem-focused strategy of coping significantly predicted greater PTG at T2.

Conclusions: This study contributes to a deeper understanding of the type of social support that may specifically aid cancer patients in experiencing PTG. Furthermore, findings confirm the important role of problem-focused coping strategies in growing psychologically.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Social Support*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires