A systematic review of spousal couple-based intervention studies for couples coping with cancer: direction for the development of interventions

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With the research focus on family caregiving shifting from the individual to the dyadic level, it is suggested that the caregiver-patient dyad as a unit be the focus and direction of caregiving interventions for families coping with cancer. The objectives in conducting this review were to explore the existing interventions for spousal couples coping with cancer in terms of type of intervention, contents, approach, and outcome measurements; and to identify directions for the development of interventions.


A systematic search of four databases was conducted to identify articles published in English or Chinese from the launch of the databases to March 2013. Studies were located using an electronic search, a manual search, and an author search.


A total of 17 articles were identified and included in this review. These interventions focused mainly on patient caregiving and caregiver self care, and usually lasted for 6 weeks using a face-to-face group mode, with follow-up at around 3 months. The outcome measures can be grouped into three main dimensions: dyadic appraisal, dyadic coping, and dyadic adjustments. Positive outcomes were reported for these interventions, including improvements in communication, dyadic coping, the quality of life of both the patients and their partners, psychosocial distress, sexual functioning, and marital satisfaction.


These findings highlighted the positive outcomes of couple-based interventions that focus on couples coping with cancer. Future studies on couple-based interventions should be conducted in different cultures, such as in Asian countries. Collaboration between researchers and clinicians is crucial to ensure the development of effective and accessible supportive interventions targeting couples coping with cancer. Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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