Nav: Home

Silver linings come from partner support, research says

February 20, 2019

We're often told we are responsible for our own happiness. But in challenging situations, a UC Riverside study not only demonstrates the benefits of positive reframing - finding a "silver lining" - but also suggests our partners can be more adept at finding that silver lining than we are.

A UCR psychology researcher says the findings, based on a study of couples coping with breast cancer, may provide a roadmap for a more contented spouse.

Previous studies have demonstrated that women with breast cancer who engage in positive reframing not only have less distress, but may even find some benefit in the experience. But the question has remained: what's to credit for the ability to find a silver lining?

Psychology researchers know that a great source of support is a "socially similar" other who has faced the same stress, but has found a way to cope more calmly. The researchers in the current study theorized that socially similar other - when facing a challenge such as breast cancer - is likely a romantic partner.

For the current study, 52 couples coping with breast cancer wore an "Electronically Activated Recorder," or EAR, over one weekend to record 50 seconds every nine minutes during their waking days. After the couples' weekend with the EAR device, researchers looked at the degree to which word use indicated positive reframing and successful coping, or the reduction of stress.

Of the thousands of sound files collected, researchers found participants were speaking about 46 percent of the time. About 4 percent of "talking" sound files were about cancer. Research assistants were asked to examine these files and look for instances in which someone appeared to be changing a negative view into a positive one.

The couples were asked to self-report their positive reframing (e.g., when experiencing a stressful event, "I look for something good in what is happening"), and their stress levels.

The findings affirmed that spouses can help with coping by positively reframing the cancer experience and other negative experiences. In general, positive reframing - finding the silver lining - was associated with less stress. It bears out the original theory, the value of the "socially similar" other's support.

"Word use can be a window into people's thoughts and feelings without having to directly ask them. Positive emotion words, like 'happy' or 'calm,' can indicate what someone is feeling, and cognitive processing words, like 'think' or 'because,' reveal that someone is processing a thought," said Megan Robbins, a psychology professor at UCR and author of the study, which was published recently in the Journal of Psychosocial Oncology.

"It's possible that spouses' positive emotion and cognitive processing words indicated that they were helping patients see a new, more positive perspective on cancer." Robbins said it's likely that spouses who can help reframe a topic as "heavy" as cancer in a more positive light may be able to do the same for everyday stressors.

For those whose partners have cancer, and for those whose partners do not, however, Robbins issues a caution: "To push your partner into positivity when they're not ready is not advisable."

Why are partners better at finding silver linings? Robbins said it may be because the partner who doesn't have cancer has more resources, like energy. It could even be due to a gender effect, i.e., men are more likely to positively reframe cancer than women --though more research is needed to affirm that.

"Interventions should focus on patients and spouses, as coping can be a social activity," Robbins said. "These interventions should stress the importance of active and appropriate coping strategies to both the patient and their potentially less distressed partner."
Along with Robbins, study authors of the journal paper, "Interpersonal Positive Reframing in the Daily Lives of Couples Coping with Breast Cancer," include Robert C. Wright, a UCR psychology graduate student; Ana María López, Thomas Jefferson University and Karen Weihs, University of Arizona. Funding support for the study was provided by the National Cancer Institute and the American Cancer Society.

University of California - Riverside

Related Breast Cancer Articles:

Partial breast irradiation effective treatment option for low-risk breast cancer
Partial breast irradiation produces similar long-term survival rates and risk for recurrence compared with whole breast irradiation for many women with low-risk, early stage breast cancer, according to new clinical data from a national clinical trial involving researchers from The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center - Arthur G.
Breast screening linked to 60 per cent lower risk of breast cancer death in first 10 years
Women who take part in breast screening have a significantly greater benefit from treatments than those who are not screened, according to a study of more than 50,000 women.
More clues revealed in link between normal breast changes and invasive breast cancer
A research team, led by investigators from Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, details how a natural and dramatic process -- changes in mammary glands to accommodate breastfeeding -- uses a molecular process believed to contribute to survival of pre-malignant breast cells.
Breast tissue tumor suppressor PTEN: A potential Achilles heel for breast cancer cells
A highly collaborative team of researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina and Ohio State University report in Nature Communications that they have identified a novel pathway for connective tissue PTEN in breast cancer cell response to radiotherapy.
Computers equal radiologists in assessing breast density and associated breast cancer risk
Automated breast-density evaluation was just as accurate in predicting women's risk of breast cancer, found and not found by mammography, as subjective evaluation done by radiologists, in a study led by researchers at UC San Francisco and Mayo Clinic.
Blood test can effectively rule out breast cancer, regardless of breast density
A new study published in PLOS ONE demonstrates that Videssa® Breast, a multi-protein biomarker blood test for breast cancer, is unaffected by breast density and can reliably rule out breast cancer in women with both dense and non-dense breast tissue.
Study shows influence of surgeons on likelihood of removal of healthy breast after breast cancer dia
Attending surgeons can have a strong influence on whether a patient undergoes contralateral prophylactic mastectomy after a diagnosis of breast cancer, according to a study published by JAMA Surgery.
Young breast cancer patients undergoing breast conserving surgery see improved prognosis
A new analysis indicates that breast cancer prognoses have improved over time in young women treated with breast conserving surgery.
Does MRI plus mammography improve detection of new breast cancer after breast conservation therapy?
A new article published by JAMA Oncology compares outcomes for combined mammography and MRI or ultrasonography screenings for new breast cancers in women who have previously undergone breast conservation surgery and radiotherapy for breast cancer initially diagnosed at 50 or younger.
Blood test offers improved breast cancer detection tool to reduce use of breast biopsy
A Clinical Breast Cancer study demonstrates Videssa Breast can inform better next steps after abnormal mammogram results and potentially reduce biopsies up to 67 percent.
More Breast Cancer News and Breast Cancer Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Rethinking Anger
Anger is universal and complex: it can be quiet, festering, justified, vengeful, and destructive. This hour, TED speakers explore the many sides of anger, why we need it, and who's allowed to feel it. Guests include psychologists Ryan Martin and Russell Kolts, writer Soraya Chemaly, former talk radio host Lisa Fritsch, and business professor Dan Moshavi.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#538 Nobels and Astrophysics
This week we start with this year's physics Nobel Prize awarded to Jim Peebles, Michel Mayor, and Didier Queloz and finish with a discussion of the Nobel Prizes as a way to award and highlight important science. Are they still relevant? When science breakthroughs are built on the backs of hundreds -- and sometimes thousands -- of people's hard work, how do you pick just three to highlight? Join host Rachelle Saunders and astrophysicist, author, and science communicator Ethan Siegel for their chat about astrophysics and Nobel Prizes.