Optimism, disengagement, and coping in early-stage breast cancer patients

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Committee Member

Charles S. Carver - Committee Chair


This research examined the experience of women during the first year following their diagnosis and subsequent treatment for early stage breast cancer. The focus of the research was to examine the relationships between a personality variable---optimism---and disruptions of normal activities of life. The hypotheses were based on theory suggesting that more optimistic people, because they expect a good end result, are more likely to stay engaged in a goal than are more pessimistic people. In the reported studies, the goal of interest was good health and a full life following diagnosis and treatment for early stage breast cancer. Engagement was explored by examining the women's ability to stay involved in social interaction, recreation/pastimes, and sexual relations, and by examining the levels of fatigue and disruption of their sense of femininity.In the research reported here, two distinct samples of women with early stage breast cancer were used to explore two hypotheses. First, optimists are less likely than pessimists to withdraw behaviorally from the activities of their lives. Second, the relationship between optimism/pessimism and engagement in or disengagement from life activities is mediated by coping strategies---specifically acceptance, active coping, denial, and behavioral disengagement.There was evidence suggesting significant relationships between optimism and engagement in both the longitudinal and cross-sectional samples. In addition, there was limited support for the mediating effects of coping strategies on these relationships.


Psychology, Clinical; Psychology, Personality

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