All cancer screening tests produce a proportion of abnormal results requiring follow up. Consequently, the cancer-screening setting is a natural laboratory for examining psychological and behavioural response to a threatening health-related event. This study tested hypotheses derived from the social cognitive processing and cognitive-social health information processing models in trying to understand response to an abnormal ovarian cancer (OC) screening test result. Women (n = 278) receiving an abnormal screening test result a mean of 7 weeks earlier were assessed prior to a repeat screening test intended to clarify their previous abnormal result. Measures of disposition (optimism, informational coping style), social environment (social support and constraint), emotional processing, distress, and benefit finding were obtained. Regression analyses indicated greater distress was associated with greater social constraint and emotional processing and a monitoring coping style in women with a family history of OC. Distress was unrelated to social support. Greater benefit finding was associated with both greater social constraint and support and greater distress. The primacy of social constraint in accounting for both benefit finding and distress was noteworthy and warrants further research on the role of social constraint in adaptation to stressful events.

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Published in Psychology & Health, v. 26, no. 4, p. 383–397.

This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis Group in Psychology & Health in April 2011, available online: http://www.tandfonline.com/10.1080/08870440903437034

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