Intimacy processes and psychological distress among couples coping with head and neck or lung cancers

Sharon Manne, Hoda Badr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

77 Scopus citations


Objective: Couples coping with head and neck and lung cancers are at increased risk for psychological and relationship distress given patients' poor prognosis and aggressive and sometimes disfiguring treatments. The relationship intimacy model of couples' psychosocial adaptation proposes that relationship intimacy mediates associations between couples' cancer-related support communication and psychological distress. Because the components of this model have not yet been evaluated in the same study, we examined associations between three types of cancer-related support communication (self-disclosure, perceived partner disclosure, and protective buffering), intimacy (global and cancer-specific), and global distress among patients coping with either head and neck or lung cancer and their partners. Method: One hundred and nine patients undergoing active treatment and their partners whose average time since diagnosis was 15 months completed cross-sectional surveys. Results: For both patients and their partners, multilevel analyses using the actor-partner interdependence model showed that global and cancer-specific intimacy fully mediated associations between self- and perceived partner disclosure and distress; global intimacy partially mediated the association between protective buffering and distress. Evidence for moderated mediation was found; specifically, lower levels of distress were reported as a function of global and cancer-specific intimacy, but these associations were stronger for partners than for patients. Conclusions: Enhancing relationship intimacy by disclosing cancer-related concerns may facilitate both partners' adjustment to these illnesses.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)941-954
Number of pages14
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2010


  • Cancer
  • Psychological distress
  • Relationship intimacy
  • Relationship processes
  • Self-disclosure


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