Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Counseling Psychology

First Advisor

Kathleen Ingram


The experience of being diagnosed with and treated for cancer is an extremely stressful experience for most individuals. Historically, the literature on stress and coping has focused on negative outcomes, such as depression and anxiety, in relation to one‘s experience with cancer. Under-represented in the literature has been a theoretical framework that examines positive and transformative experiences that may occur throughout the cancer experience. The current study assessed interpersonal variables that rarely have been investigated in relation to one‘s experience with cancer (i.e., received social support and unsupportive interactions) and their association with depressive symptoms, positive emotion, and posttraumatic growth in a sample of men and women recently diagnosed with cancer. The main research design was cross-sectional (although longitudinal analyses were conducted on an exploratory basis), and self-report data were collected from 60 participants who had been diagnosed with cancer on average 5.68 months prior to data collection. Contrary to hypotheses, hierarchical regression equations indicated that received social support was not related to any of the outcome variables. However, unsupportive responses from a main support person were found to be significantly and positively related to participants‘ reports of depressive symptoms and posttraumatic growth within the context of their cancer experience. A major contribution of the present study is that it called attention to the importance of studying unsupportive interactions separately from social support. Moreover, this is the first study to investigate the relationship between unsupportive interactions and posttraumatic growth in a sample of recently diagnosed cancer patients. Findings were surprising in that the more unsupportive responses individuals with cancer received from a main support person, the more personal growth they reported. The results from the present study have important research and clinical implications for understanding the relationship between unsupportive interactions and posttraumatic growth among men and women who have been diagnosed with cancer.


© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

August 2010