Research suggests that intimate partners of cancer patients experience similar, if not higher, levels of distress and depression than the patient with regards to the cancer diagnosis. This stress can impact the quality of the relationship and the subsequent care and attention given to cancer patients. As such, identifying factors that can enhance marital relationships during times of illness is key. This project was created in order to assess the efficacy of a brief, portable intervention for improving relational quality among the intimate partners of cancer patients. In this project, we examine the effects of relational savoring, relative to two control conditions, on emotion and post-stressor relationship satisfaction among intimate partners of cancer patients. Participants were primarily recruited from Jerry L. Pettis VA, City of Hope Hospital, local cancer support groups, and oncology clinics. Participants completed pre- and post-intervention measures of relational and emotional well-being. The final sample consisted of 62 partners of cancer patients. We found no main effects of the intervention. The lack of main effects is not in line with previous research, which may be due to our small sample size. Some hypotheses were partly supported, with significant interactions between attachment and post-task relationship satisfaction and feelings of emotional closeness. Overall, these results suggest that the intervention, while not effective for all participants, benefited those who entered the study with low attachment avoidance and low attachment anxiety with regard to affective states. Additionally, while those with high attachment avoidance reported lower positive affect, but also reported higher relational satisfaction and greater feelings of closeness after engaging in the relational intervention. These findings suggest that individuals high in avoidance can experience gains in relational benefits, despite reporting that they feel worse. Within the context of clinical application, a brief intervention may serve as an alternative therapeutic approach for individuals low in attachment anxiety, and for those high in attachment avoidance who struggle to engage in traditional treatments. Future studies should assess attachment styles at the outset of the intervention to target individuals most likely to experience emotional and relational benefits.

LLU Discipline

Clinical Psychology


Clinical Psychology


School of Behavioral Health

First Advisor

Vermeersch, David A.

Second Advisor

Borelli, Jessica L.

Third Advisor

Arechiga, Adam L.

Fourth Advisor

Ballinger, Rebecca E.

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Level


Year Degree Awarded


Date (Title Page)




Library of Congress/MESH Subject Headings

Stress; Psychological; Marriage - Psychology; Caregivers; Cancer - Psychological aspects;

Subject - Local

Marital Relationships; Cancer; Portable Intervention



Page Count


Digital Format


Digital Publisher

Loma Linda University Libraries

Usage Rights

This title appears here courtesy of the author, who has granted Loma Linda University a limited, non-exclusive right to make this publication available to the public. The author retains all other copyrights.


Loma Linda University Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Collection Website



Loma Linda University. Del E. Webb Memorial Library. University Archives