Journal of Behavioral Medicine

, Volume 29, Issue 4, pp 335–345 | Cite as

Self-Report and Linguistic Indicators of Emotional Expression in Narratives as Predictors of Adjustment to Cancer

  • Jason E. Owen
  • Janine Giese-Davis
  • Matt Cordova
  • Carol Kronenwetter
  • Mitch Golant
  • David Spiegel


Emotional expression and cognitive efforts to adapt to cancer have been linked to better psychological adjustment. However, little is known about the relationship between linguistic indicators of emotional and cognitive coping efforts and corresponding self-report measures of related constructs. In this study, we sought to evaluate the interrelationships between self-reports of emotional suppression and linguistic indicators of emotional and cognitive coping efforts in those living with cancer. Seventy-one individuals attending a community cancer support group completed measures of emotional suppression and mood disturbance and provided a written narrative describing their cancer experience. Self-reports of emotional suppression were associated with more rather than less distress. Although linguistic indicators of both emotional expression and cognitive processing were generally uncorrelated with self-report measures of emotional suppression and mood disturbance, a significant interaction was observed between emotional suppression and use of cognitive words on mood disturbance. Among those using higher levels of emotional suppression, increasing use of cognitive words was associated with greater levels of mood disturbance. These findings have implications for a) the therapeutic use of emotion in psychosocial interventions and b) the use of computer-assisted technologies to conduct content analysis.


cancer emotional expression linguistic analysis emotional suppression 



Carol Kronenwetter, Ph.D. now at California Pacific Medical Center, San Francisco. This research was funded by California Breast Cancer Research Program grants #1FB-0383, #4BB-2901, and #5FB-0036, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the Kozmetsky Global Collaboratory, Stanford. Parts of this analysis were presented at the Annual meeting for the Society of Behavioral Medicine, 2000, in Nashville, TN. We would like to acknowledge the contributions of Michael States from TWC, research assistants Casey Alt, Sanjay Chakrapani, Barbara K. Symons, and Rebecca Caldwell, and the efforts of data manager Sue DiMiceli. We would also like to acknowledge the contributions of the many men and women who participated.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jason E. Owen
    • 1
  • Janine Giese-Davis
    • 2
  • Matt Cordova
    • 3
  • Carol Kronenwetter
    • 4
  • Mitch Golant
    • 5
  • David Spiegel
    • 2
  1. 1. Department of PsychologyLoma Linda UniversityLoma LindaUSA
  2. 2.Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral SciencesStanford University School of MedicineStanfordUSA
  3. 3.VA Palo Alto Health Care SystemPacific Graduate School of PsychologyPalo AltoUSA
  4. 4.Cancer Support CommunityU.C.S.F. Mt. Zion Cancer CenterSan FranciscoUSA
  5. 5.The Wellness Community–NationalSanta MonicaUSA

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