Waxler Morrison et al (1991) – Social

Waxler-Morrison, Nancy, et al. “Effects of social relationships on survival for women with breast cancer: a prospective study.” Social science & medicine33.2 (1991): 177-183.



This is the third study we will be looking at from the ‘managing stress’ section of ‘Stress’, as part of your OCR A2 Health and Clinical Psychology course. It is further categorised into ‘Social

Sklar & Anisman (1981) reviewed a large body of literature and concluded that cancer growth is amplified by stress.

The two previous techniques we have looked at require intervention by a therapist which makes them less readily available. This study looked at support networks, which are more readily available. 

Support networks are used for a variety of problems e.g. Alcoholics anonymous.  In today’s society, support is less likely to come from family members so these support networks are very important to a lot of people

It is unclear how social support networks help reduce the stress caused by having an illness


Waxler Morrison et al (1991) – studied the impact of social groups upon individuals with breast cancer.


To see how social relationships influence response to breast cancer and survival.

Method and Design

Due to the nature of this study, the methodology used was a quasi-experiment with a sample consisting of women with breast cancer.

The independent measures design was used.


133 women under 55 years (pre-menopausal)


Patients were mailed a  questionnaire to gather information on: their demography and existing social networks, their educational level,contact with friends and family, perception of support from others andwho they were responsible for, for example their children.  

They were given a psychometric test of social network that combined marital status, contact with friends and family and church membership.


Six aspects of social network were significantly linked with survival. These were: marital status, support from friends, contact with friends, total support, social network and employment.

The qualitative data from the interviews showed that practical help such as childcare, cooking and transport to hospital were the concrete aspects of support. 

Married women who survived tended to report supportive spouses.

Jobs were seen as important, even if they were not financially important, as they were a source of support and information.


The more social networks and support, the higher the survival rate of women with breast cancer, although type of cancer was still the main factor in survival.

Waxler Morrison et al (1991) Evaluation

+ Usefulness – the study is highly useful as it suggests that attendance to support groups can impact upon the survival rates of women with cancer.

– Gynocentrism – the sample consisted of only women, therefore it is hard to generalise the results of this study to a male population, especially when one considers the differences in social behaviour between men and women.

– Ethnocentric – as the sample consisted of only cancer patients, we cannot easily generalised the results to wider populations with different illnesses.

– Validity – the researchers note that the type of cancer had an impact on rates of survival, therefore we cannot be certain of the conclusions of this study.


Waxler-Morrison, Nancy, et al. “Effects of social relationships on survival for women with breast cancer: a prospective study.” Social science & medicine33.2 (1991): 177-183.

Further Reading

OCR A2 Psychology Student Unit Guide New Edition: Unit G543 Health and Clinical Psychology (Student Unit Guides)

Psych Yogi’s Top Ten Psychology Revision Tips for the A* Student

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Waxler Morrison et al (1991) - Social
'managing stress' section of 'Stress', revise OCR A2 Health and Clinical Psychology course. It is further categorised into 'Social' revision, evaluation

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