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05.12.2018 | Brief Communication

Causal attributions and their impact on psychosocial functioning in head and neck cancer patient–caregiver dyads: a preliminary, longitudinal study

Quality of Life Research
Jessica L. Burris, Jessica N. Rivera-Rivera, Kent Armeson, Jane Zapka, Anthony J. Alberg, Terry A. Day, Katherine R. Sterba
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This longitudinal study explores causal attributions in newly diagnosed head/neck cancer (HNC) patients and their caregivers.


Perceptions of causal attributions and associated level of responsibility regarding each patient’s HNC diagnosis at baseline (n = 72 dyads) were described and then tested as predictors of depressive symptoms, cancer worry, and perceived support 6 months later.


When causes were reported, tobacco and alcohol use topped the list of both patients and caregivers. Three-quarters of dyads agreed about perceptions of the patients’ responsibility in causing their HNC. Some dyad-level patterns of causal attribution were associated with patients’ and caregivers’ cancer worry (p < 0.05) and caregivers’ perceived support (p < 0.05) in unadjusted models.


This preliminary study indicates that causal attributions warrant further exploration in HNC patient–caregiver dyads specifically, as well as studies of quality of life in patient–caregiver dyads more broadly considered.

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