Character Growth Following a Cancer Diagnosis: Prospectively Examining Measurement, Construct Validity, and a Dyadic Theoretical Model in Cancer Patients and Caregivers

Patients and their caregivers commonly report positive psychological change following the diagnosis and treatment of cancer, a phenomenon referred to as perceived growth. However, most studies have examined patient and caregiver growth as separate, parallel processes, without considering their dynamic interplay or the shared interpersonal context. Furthermore, previous research is limited by cross-sectional designs that use retrospective self-report measures to capture perceived change following cancer, rather than prospective designs to capture actual, measured changes in positive traits such as character strengths (i.e., character growth). To date, no studies have tested dyadic processes (disclosure, support, empathy, cognitive processing) as mechanisms of character growth or assessed change over time in a dyadic outcome, such as relationship strengths, as a measure of couple growth. Using a repeated-measures prospective design with quantitative approaches that model actor-partner effects, the overarching aim of the current proposal (N = 250) is to determine whether the challenges associated with a new cancer diagnosis result in meaningful, positive changes in character in the patient, caregiver, and dyad. We also propose an expanded theoretical model to delineate the intrapersonal and shared dyadic processes that underlie character and couple growth among cancer patients and caregivers.