Couples coping with cancer: exploration of theoretical frameworks from dyadic studies

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Abstract

Objective:

A diagnosis of cancer and subsequent treatment are distressing not only for the person directly affected, but also for their intimate partner. The aim of this review is to (a) identify the main theoretical frameworks underpinning research addressing dyadic coping among couples affected by cancer, (b) summarise the evidence supporting the concepts described in these theoretical frameworks, and (c) examine the similarities and differences between these theoretical perspectives.

Methods:

A literature search was undertaken to identify descriptive studies published between 1990 and 2013 (English and French) that examined the interdependence of patients' and partners' coping, and the impact of coping on psychosocial outcomes. Data were extracted using a standardised form and reviewed by three of the authors.

Results:

Twenty-three peer-reviewed manuscripts were identified, from which seven theoretical perspectives were derived: Relationship-Focused Coping, Transactional Model of Stress and Coping, Systemic-Transactional Model (STM) of dyadic coping, Collaborative Coping, Relationship Intimacy model, Communication models, and Coping Congruence. Although these theoretical perspectives emphasised different aspects of coping, a number of conceptual commonalities were noted.

Conclusion:

This review identified key theoretical frameworks of dyadic coping used in cancer. Evidence indicates that responses within the couple that inhibit open communication between partner and patient are likely to have an adverse impact on psychosocial outcomes. Models that incorporate the interdependence of emotional responses and coping behaviours within couples have an emerging evidence base in psycho-oncology and may have greatest validity and clinical utility in this setting. Copyright © 2015 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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