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Posttraumatic growth in cancer survivors : a psychosocial investigation of adaptation


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Morris, Bronwyn Anne 2009 , 'Posttraumatic growth in cancer survivors : a psychosocial investigation of adaptation', PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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This thesis comprises a comprehensive program of quantitative and qualitative
studies investigating posttraumatic growth (PTG) that may be perceived after
struggling with the challenges associated with a diagnosis of cancer and treatment.
Study 1 examined participants diagnosed with a variety of cancers (N = 335). In
addition to completing questionnaires, 62% of paiticipants also provided a written
narrative of their cancer experience. Structural equation modelling of quantitative
measures indicated rumination to be an important variable associated with post
diagnosis outcomes, and that PTG had distinct predictors from distress. Social
support and deliberately ruminating on benefits predicted PTG, while trauma
severity, intrusive rumination and life purpose rumination predicted distress.
Analyses also revealed differences in levels of PTG associated with type of
cancer diagnosis. Breast cancer survivors (M = 64.4 7, SD = 22.19) reported higher
PTG than haematological (M = 52.22, SD = 24.45) and colorectal (M = 51.44, SD =
22.45) cancer survivors. Prostate cancer survivors (M= 58.86, SD = 20.14) were not
significantly different from other groups. Breast cancer survivors also had higher
levels of coping effort, cognitive processing regarding benefits, intrusive and life
purpose rumination, current distress, and lower helplessness than other cancer
diagnosis groups. These differences in PTG across diagnoses remained after
controlling for age and gender.
Study 2 collected data three times over 12 months from participants newly
diagnosed with a haematological malignancy and their spouses (N = 11 ). Qualitative
results supported the model of themes proposed in Study 1, showing that participants
displaying resilient characteristics did not perceive PTG to the same extent as
participants who perceived their cancer to be of such magnitude that it changed their
life. Resilient participants felt psychologically prepared as a result of prior adversities.
Perhaps these past challenges had helped them to develop or strengthen
their coping skills, and hence helped them to manage the challenges posed by their
cancer experience. In both studies, participants strongly endorsed additional
qualitative domains of PTG (e.g., health-related benefits and compassion). These
findings suggesting that studies utilising traditional measures of PTG may overlook
important features of positive life change in people coping with illnesses such as
In summary, the results from these studies indicate i) the importance in
considering rumination in terms of both growth and distress, ii) the potential
differences in adjustment and PTG between cancer diagnoses, and iii) utilising
measures that capture the full extent of PTG in an illness-related context. This thesis
discusses the implications of these findings and suggests avenues for further research
to inform public health policy and service provision in relation to holistic
psychosocial adjustment to a diagnosis of cancer.

Item Type: Thesis - PhD
Authors/Creators:Morris, Bronwyn Anne
Copyright Holders: The Author
Copyright Information:

Copyright 2009 the author

Additional Information:

Available for use in the Library and copying in accordance with the Copyright Act 1968, as amended. Thesis (PhD)--University of Tasmania, 2009. Includes bibliographical references

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