Enhanced benefit finding in women with early-stage breast cancer: The mediational role of skill building and social functioning

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Committee Member

Charles S. Carver - Committee Chair


A growing body of literature points to positive contributions made by the cancer experience (benefit finding), such as an improvement in personal resources and skills, an enhanced sense of purpose, a positive adjustment in life priorities, and closer relationships. This study explored multiple aspects of the relationships between intrapersonal and interpersonal coping skills reported after participating in a group-based cognitive-behavioral stress management intervention or a one-day seminar (T2), levels of social functioning reported at 3- and 9-month follow-ups (T3 and T4), and reports of benefit finding measured at 3- and 9-month follow-ups (T3 and T4). Participants, 136 women newly treated for stage 0-II breast cancer, were randomized to either the intervention or the control group, and were initially assessed approximately 4--8 weeks after breast cancer surgery (T1), then at the end of the intervention (T2), then at 3-month follow-up (T3), and again after a 9-month follow-up (T4). Measures of intrapersonal skills included emotional processing, active coping, planning, positive reframing, and acceptance. Interpersonal skills comprised support seeking from friends and from partners and a combination of three social relations scores accounted for the levels of social functioning. Skill building was operationalized as the difference between T1 and T2 coping skills scores. The study examined which of these variables may have contributed to the report of benefit finding at T3.Three factors predicted long-term benefit finding. First, emotional processing and other intrapersonal coping skills reported at T2 by participants who also reported low levels of benefit finding at baseline predicted greater benefit finding at T3. Secondly, support-seeking behaviors that were reported at T2 had predicted greater benefit finding at T3. Finally, increases in social relations from T1 to T3 also predicted greater benefit finding at T3. However, the effect of the intervention on benefit finding at T3 was not mediated by any of the predictors using an available-case approach. A series of methodological shortcomings were discussed, which may have affected the results, including issues of operationalization of skill building and timing of recruitment and collection of data. Finally, recommendations for future study were included.


Psychology; Clinical; Health Sciences; Oncology

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