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The family's functioning with newly diagnosed breast cancer in the mother: The development of an explanatory model


Despite the high rates of breast cancer in the child-rearing mother, there is extremely limited research on the effects of the illness on the children, marriage, and parent-child relationship. The current study tested an explanatory model of family functioning with breast cancer based on data obtained from standardized questionnaires from 80 diagnosed mothers and partners with young school-age children. Path analysis results for data obtained from both the mothers and the partners revealed a similar pattern. More frequently experienced illness demands were associated with higher levels of parental depressed mood which negatively affected the marriage. When the marriage was less well adjusted, it negatively affected the family's coping behavior. Household functioning was positively affected by heightened coping activity and by higher levels of marital adjustment. Children functioned better when the non-ill parent more frequently interacted with them and their families coped more frequently with their problems.

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Correspondence to Frances Marcus Lewis.

Additional information

This research was supported by a grant from the Center for Nursing Research, National Institutes of Health (R01-NR-01000), and an American Cancer Society Oncology Nursing Professorship awarded to the senior author.

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Lewis, F.M., Hammond, M.A. & Woods, N.F. The family's functioning with newly diagnosed breast cancer in the mother: The development of an explanatory model. J Behav Med 16, 351–370 (1993).

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Key words

  • family functioning
  • breast cancer
  • model development