Factors associated with romantic relationship formation difficulties in women with breast cancer

L. K. Shaw, K. A. Sherman*, J. Fitness, E. Elder, Breast Cancer Network Australia

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    15 Citations (Scopus)


    Objective: Many un-partnered women report difficulty in forming romantic relationships after breast cancer, characterized by high dating-related anxiety and low perceived interpersonal competence. This study examined the relationship between poor body image (appearance investment and body dissatisfaction) and self-compassion, and women's ability to form romantic relationships post-breast cancer. Methods: Women (N = 152) diagnosed with breast cancer, who were either un-partnered and expressed interest in romantic dating, or who had commenced a relationship post-diagnosis, completed an online survey. Assessments included the Interpersonal Competence Questionnaire, Dating Anxiety Scale, Self-compassion Scale, Appearance Schemas Inventory-Revised, Body Image Scale, and Experiences in Close Relationships Scale. Multiple regression analyses assessed the relationships between these variables. Results: Partnered and un-partnered women differed in levels of dating anxiety, interpersonal competence, anxious attachment, and the self-evaluative salience facet of appearance investment. Analyses revealed a significant model for dating anxiety, with high self-evaluative salience, body image dissatisfaction, and attachment avoidance independently associated with this outcome. The model for interpersonal competence was also significant, with low attachment avoidance and high self-compassion independently associated with this outcome. Conclusions: Un-partnered women who place high importance on appearance for their self-worth and who report poor body image and low self-compassion are at risk of experiencing difficulties in forming new romantic relationships after breast cancer. Future interventions should target these variables to facilitate romantic dating during cancer survivorship.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1270-1276
    Number of pages7
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - Apr 2018


    • body image
    • breast cancer
    • dating
    • relationships
    • self-compassion


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