Background: Withholding cancer-related concerns from one's partner (protective buffering) and feeling that one's partner is inaccessible or unresponsive to such disclosure (social constraints) are two interpersonal interaction patterns that separately have been linked to poorer adjustment to cancer. Purpose: Guided by the Social-Cognitive Processing Model, we examined the joint effects of social constraints and protective buffering on fear of cancer recurrence (FCR) in survivors and spouses. Social constraints and protective buffering were hypothesized to emerge as independent predictors of higher FCR. Methods: Early-stage breast cancer survivors and spouses (N = 79 couples; 158 paired individuals) completed up to five repeated measures of FCR, social constraints, protective buffering, and relationship quality during the year postdiagnosis. A second-order growth curve model was estimated and extended to test the time-varying, within-person effects of social constraints and protective buffering on a latent FCR variable, controlling for relationship quality. Results: As hypothesized, greater social constraints and protective buffering significantly (p <. 05) predicted higher concurrent FCR at the within-person level, controlling for global relationship quality and change in FCR over time. The fixed effects were found to be similar for both survivors and spouses. Conclusions: Findings suggest that interaction patterns resulting in inhibited disclosure are associated with greater FCR for both survivors and spouses, consistent with the Social-Cognitive Processing Model. This work adds to the growing body of research highlighting the social context of FCR.
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- Close relationships
- Fear of cancer recurrence
- Protective buffering
- Social constraints