Attachment and coping as predictors of mood in daughters of women with breast cancer

Jodi Carol Morris, Fordham University


Given that one in eight women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some point during her lifetime and that there is an increased risk for women who have a family history of the disease, daughters of women with breast cancer are vulnerable to psychological distress. Research with this population has been limited and no published studies have investigated the role of the mother-daughter relationship in the daughter's reaction to her mother's breast cancer. This study examined attachment style, coping, threat appraisal, and mood in daughters of women with breast cancer. Participants were 139 adult daughters of women with breast cancer whose mothers were diagnosed within the past year. A MANOVA showed that securely attached participants did not differ from insecurely attached participants in regard to task-oriented coping, avoidance-oriented coping, and threat appraisal. However, insecurely attached participants in this study were combined into one general category of insecure attachment and, then, compared to securely attached participants. Combining the insecure attachment styles (i.e., preoccupied, fearful-avoidant, dismissive-avoidant) may have masked the differences in coping style, threat appraisal, and mood disturbance. Therefore, a post-hoc MANOVA was computed and revealed that securely attached participants differed from those with a preoccupied attachment style on threat appraisal and total mood disturbance. Securely attached participants perceived their mothers' breast cancer as less threatening and experienced less mood disturbance than preoccupied participants. Several other noteworthy results were found. Participants in this study reported greater mood disturbance than a nonpsychiatric sample and mood disturbance comparable to an outpatient psychiatric sample. Task-oriented coping was negatively correlated with mood disturbance while emotion-oriented coping was positively correlated and, contrary to expectation, avoidance-oriented coping showed no relationship to mood disturbance. Threat appraisal was also found to be positively correlated with emotion-oriented coping, avoidance-oriented coping, and mood disturbance. Implications for healthcare and mental health professionals, limitations of the study, and recommendations for future research were discussed.

Subject Area

Womens studies|Psychotherapy

Recommended Citation

Morris, Jodi Carol, "Attachment and coping as predictors of mood in daughters of women with breast cancer" (2007). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3262835.