Age and attachment style impact stress and depressive symptoms among caregivers: A prospective investigation

Youngmee Kim, Deborah A. Kashy, Tekla V. Evans

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Family members begin their role as caregivers to persons with cancer with little advance notice. In this situation, the caregivers' existing psychosocial resources, including their stage in life and the nature of their relationship with the patient, can play important roles in the extent of stress caregivers experience during this unique time. Family caregivers (N∈=∈98) of diagnosed colorectal cancer patients at community hospitals participated in the study around the time of diagnosis (T1) and at 6 months post-diagnosis (T2). Hierarchical regression analyses revealed that younger caregivers reported greater increases in caregiving stress at T2, controlling for the level of caregiving stress at T1. This was more prominent when they had an anxious attachment orientation to the care recipient (i.e., cancer survivor), which was characterized as a strong desire for closeness to the cancer survivor, hypervigilance for cues of abandonment, and emotional upset both at separation and reunion with the survivor. The same interaction effect between age and anxious attachment was found for depressive symptoms. Results suggest that younger caregivers are more vulnerable to the challenges imposed by their relative's cancer, and this vulnerability is exacerbated by the quality of their relationship. Our findings imply that younger caregivers whose relationship with the survivor can be characterized by the features above can be identified early and might benefit from intervention or additional support to reduce the caregiving stress and depressive symptoms as they carry out their new role as a cancer caregiver. .

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)35-43
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Cancer Survivorship
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Adult attachment
  • Age
  • Caregivers
  • Caregiving stress
  • Depressive symptoms

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Oncology(nursing)


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