The effect of African Americans' ethnographic paradigms and cultural explanatory model of breast cancer in framing the male partner's attitudes and behaviors about the woman's breast cancer diagnosis
The disparate burden of breast cancer-related morbidity and mortality experienced by African American women compared with women of other races is a topic of intense debate in the medical and public health arenas. The anomaly is consistently attributed to the fact that at diagnosis, a large proportion of African American women have advanced-stage disease. Extensive research has documented the impacts of cultural factors and of socioeconomic factors in shaping African American women's breast-health practices; however, there is another factor of a more subtle influence that might have some role in establishing these women's vulnerability to this disease: the lack of or perceived lack of partner support. Themes expressed in the research literature reflect that many African American breast cancer patients and survivors consider their male partners as being apathetic and nonsupportive. The purpose of this study was to learn how African American couples' ethnographic paradigms and cultural explanatory model of breast cancer frame the male partners' responses to the women's diagnosis and to assess his ability to cope and willingness to adapt to the subsequent challenges. The goal of the study was to determine whether these men's coping and adaptation skills positively or negatively affect the women's self-care attitudes and behaviors. This study involved 4 African American couples in which the woman was a breast cancer survivor. Participants were recruited through a community-based cancer support group and a church-based cancer support group. Recruitment sessions were held at regular meetings of these organizations. Accrual took 2 months. In separate sessions, each male partner and each survivor completed a demographic survey and a questionnaire and were interviewed. Additionally, the couples were asked to participate in a communications activity (Adinkra). This activity was not done to fulfill any part of the study purpose and was not included in the data analysis; rather, it was done to assess its potential use as an intervention to promote dialogue between African American partners about the experience of breast cancer. The questionnaire was analyzed on the basis of a coding schema and the interview responses were analyzed on the principles of hermeneutic phenomenology. In both cases, the instruments were used to determine whether the partner's coping skills reflected a compassionate attitude (positive response) versus an apathetic attitude (negative response) and whether his adaptation skills reflected supportive behaviors (the positive response) versus nonsupportive behaviors (the negative response). Overall, the women's responses showed that they perceived of their partners as being compassionate, yet nonsupportive, and the partner's perceived of themselves likewise. Only half of the women said that their partners' coping and adaptation abilities enabled them to relinquish traditional concepts of control and focus on their own well-being. The themes that emerged indicate that African American men's attitudes and behaviors regarding his female partner's diagnosis of breast cancer and his ability to cope and willingness to adapt are influenced by their ritualistic mantras, folk beliefs, religious teachings/spiritual values, existential ideologies, socioeconomic status, and environmental factors and by their established perceptions of what causes breast cancer, what the treatments and outcomes are, and how the disease affects the entire family, particularly him. These findings imply that a culturally specific intervention might be useful in educating African American men about breast cancer and their roles in supporting their female partners, physically and psychologically, during diagnosis, treatment, and recovery.
Smither-Williams, Vickie J, "The effect of African Americans' ethnographic paradigms and cultural explanatory model of breast cancer in framing the male partner's attitudes and behaviors about the woman's breast cancer diagnosis" (2008). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI1450530.