, Volume 11, Issue 4, pp 645-652
Date: 31 Aug 2012

Familial breast cancer: less emotional distress in adult daughters if they provide emotional support to their affected mother

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Abstract

Associations of characteristics of the cancer context (residence with the mother, age at mother’s cancer diagnosis or death, recency of mother’s diagnosis or death) and the familial cancer experience (engagement in caregiving, emotional support receipt and provision during the mother’s illness) with psychological adjustment were studied cross-sectionally in women at high risk for breast cancer (n = 147). Characteristics of the cancer context and engagement in caregiving for the mother’s illness were not associated with psychological adjustment. Adult daughters who reported that they had provided emotional support to her mother (p = .023) and who received emotional support themselves during the mother’s illness (p = .038) evidenced lower depressive symptoms. Furthermore, time since the mother’s cancer diagnosis moderated effects of emotional support provision on intrusive thoughts such that daughters whose mothers were diagnosed with cancer no more than 5 years previously (but not more distally) reported lower intrusive thoughts when they provided emotional support to their mothers as compared to daughters who did not (p = .003). Effects were not moderated by whether the mother had died from cancer. Although relationships of support receipt and support provision with depressive symptoms may also be attributed to trait-related behaviour linked to better psychological adjustment, the finding that intrusive thoughts were higher in daughters who were not emotionally supportive during their mother’s recent cancer diagnosis is likely to be more context-specific.