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Couples' patterns of adjustment to colon cancer


  • Northouse, Laurel L.
  • Mood, Darlene
  • Templin, Thomas
  • Mellon, Suzanne
  • George, Tamara


The objectives for this longitudinal study were to: (a) compare colon cancer patients' and their spouses' appraisal of illness, resources, concurrent stress, and adjustment during the first year following surgery; (b) examine the influence of gender (male vs female) and role (patient vs spouse caregiver) on study variables; (c) assess the degree of correlation between patients' and spouses' adjustments; and (d) identify factors that affect adjustment to the illness. Fifty-six couples were interviewed at one week post diagnosis, and at 60 days and one year post surgery. Based on a cognitive-appraisal model of stress, the Smilkstein Stress Scale was used to measure concurrent stress; the Family APGAR, Social Support Questionnaire, and Dyadic Adjustment Scale were used to measure social resources; the Beck Hopelessness Scale and Mishel Uncertainty in Illness Scales were used to measure appraisal of illness; and the Brief Symptom Inventory and Psychosocial Adjustment to Illness Scale were used to measure psychosocial adjustment. Repeated Measures Analysis of Variance indicated that spouses reported significantly more emotional distress and less social support than patients. Gender differences were found, with women reporting more distress, more role problems, and less marital satisfaction, regardless of whether they were patient or spouse. Both patients and spouses reported decreases in their family functioning and social support, but also decreases in emotional distress over time. Moderately high autocorrelations and modest intercorrelations were found among and between patients' and spouses' adjustment scores over time. The strongest predictors of patients' role adjustment problems were hopelessness and spouses' role problems. The strongest predictors of spouses' role problems were spouses' own baseline role problems and level of marital satisfaction. Interventions need to start early in the course of illness, be family-focused, and identify the couples at risk of poorer adjustment to colon cancer.

Suggested Citation

  • Northouse, Laurel L. & Mood, Darlene & Templin, Thomas & Mellon, Suzanne & George, Tamara, 2000. "Couples' patterns of adjustment to colon cancer," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 50(2), pages 271-284, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:50:y:2000:i:2:p:271-284

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    Cited by:

    1. Manderson, Lenore, 2005. "Boundary breaches: the body, sex and sexuality after stoma surgery," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 61(2), pages 405-415, July.
    2. Bar-Tal, Yoram & Barnoy, Sivia & Zisser, Bracha, 2005. "Whose informational needs are considered? A comparison between cancer patients and their spouses' perceptions of their own and their partners' knowledge and informational needs," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 60(7), pages 1459-1465, April.
    3. Hodges, L. J. & Humphris, G. M. & Macfarlane, G., 2005. "A meta-analytic investigation of the relationship between the psychological distress of cancer patients and their carers," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 60(1), pages 1-12, January.
    4. Emslie, Carol & Browne, Susan & MacLeod, Una & Rozmovits, Linda & Mitchell, Elizabeth & Ziebland, Sue, 2009. "'Getting through' not 'going under': A qualitative study of gender and spousal support after diagnosis with colorectal cancer," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 68(6), pages 1169-1175, March.
    5. Bo Malmberg & Eva Andersson & S V Subramanian, 2010. "Links between ill health and regional economic performance: evidence from Swedish longitudinal data," Environment and Planning A, Pion Ltd, London, vol. 42(5), pages 1210-1220, May.
    6. Astri Syse & Øystein Kravdal, 2007. "Does cancer affect the divorce rate?," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 16(15), pages 469-492, June.


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