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Therapeutic Norms and Patient Benefit: Cancer Patients in Professionally Directed Support Groups


This study examines the relationship between cancer support groups’ normative regulation and patient outcomes. Cancer patients (N 289) in 54 groups were studied through the use of a cross-sectional, treatment dosage design. Outcomes were assessed by the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale and the Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy, a quality of life measure commonly used in studies of cancer patients. The framework for assessing normative regulations was based on the degree to which patients matched leader norms. This approach to indexing members’ perceptions of normative regulations proved to be a successful strategy. The more a participant view matched those of the leaders, the greater the likelihood they benefited from the group. The content of the norms added an independent effect on positive outcomes. Participants who saw their groups as approving of aggressive– competitive behaviors and the intense expression of emotions were less likely to show positive outcomes.

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