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Emotional approach coping among young adults with cancer: Relationships with psychological distress, posttraumatic growth, and resilience.

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Cancer, particularly, during young adulthood, can evoke difficult emotions, interfere with normative developmental activities, and challenge coping responses. Emotion-regulating coping efforts aimed at active emotional processing (EP) and emotional expression (EE) can be beneficial to cancer adjustment and perceptions of positive growth. However, it may be that EP and EE work differently to influence well-being. This study examines relationships of EP and EE with psychological distress, posttraumatic growth (PTG), and resilience. We expect that EP will be positively associated with PTG and resilience, whereas EE will be negatively associated with psychological distress.


Young adults with cancer (M age  = 34.68, N = 57) completed measures of emotional; approach coping (EP and EE), psychological distress (depressive symptoms, fear of cancer; recurrence [FCR]) and indicators of positive adjustment and growth (resilience and PTG).


Greater use of EP was associated with higher resilience (β = 0.48, p = 0.003) and PTG (β = 0.27, p = 0.05), whereas greater use of EE was associated with lower resilience (β = -0.33, p = 0.04). The EE × EP interaction was significant for FCR (β = 0.29, p = 0.04) such that low EE was associated with lower FCR in those with high EP. Interaction effects were not significant for depressive symptoms, resilience, or PTG.


Findings highlight differing relationships between EP and EE among young adults with cancer. Interventions aimed at increasing emotion-regulating coping strategies may prove useful in facilitating positive adjustment and growth, strengthening young adults' ability to cope with the diverse effects of disease, treatment, and survivorship.

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