Family caregivers and guilt in the context of cancer care

Rachel L. Spillers, David K. Wellisch, Youngmee Kim, B. Alex Matthews, Frank Baker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


Background: Guilt as a key emotional phenomenon in the cancer-caregiving experience is an understudied issue. Objective: The purpose of this study is to identify demographic characteristics of cancer caregivers and care-related stress factors that are associated with their feelings of caregiver guilt, as well as to explore the effect of caregiver guilt on their adjustment outcomes. Method: A total of 739 caregivers of cancer survivors completed a survey (66.7% response rate), of which 635 provided complete data for the measures in this study. Results: Hierarchical regression analyses revealed that certain caregiver demographics (i.e., younger age, adult offspring, employed) and care-related stress factors (i.e., greater impact on schedule, less perceived caregiving competence, poorer overall health of the care-recipient) were significantly related to caregiver guilt. Higher levels of psychological distress and poorer mental, social, and physical functioning were significantly associated with caregiver guilt, above and beyond the variance accounted for by the covariates. Conclusion: Results suggest that caregiver guilt compromises the psychosocial and somatic adjustment of cancer caregivers. Guilt may be a cardinal feature of the caregiving experience, and to fully understand the implications of this complex phenomenon, more research is needed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)511-519
Number of pages9
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2008
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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