, Volume 14, Issue 3, pp 156-163

Emotional support for men and women with cancer: Do patients receive what their partners provide?

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Objectives: In the context of mainly gastrointestinal cancer surgery, the study examines the course of spousal support in 173 dyads over half a year to illuminate the function of gender in support transactions. Method: Provided and received emotional support were assessed in 108 male patient/female partner couples and 65 female patient/ male partner couples. Using the Berlin Social Support Scales, assessments took place during the week before cancer surgery, 1 month, and 6 months after cancer surgery. Results: Gender differences emerged for support received and provided. Support received from partners was initially high for all patients, remained high over time for men, but decreased for women. Provided support decreased for male partners, but remained high in female partners. The effects were of medium size. Patients’ received support was reflected by partners’ reports of support provided. Women who reported received support 6 months after surgery had partners who had reported support provision 5 months earlier. Conclusions: Alternative sources of support, in particular for women, such as their network of friends or professional help, may need to be identified. A couple-coping intervention could be implemented to help partners learn about each other’s needs in times of crisis and ways to cope with adversity.