Journal of Undergraduate Research


communication patterns, spousal influence, relationship quality, genetic testing, colorectal cancer prevention


Family, Home, and Social Sciences




Colorectal cancer (CRC) is one of the most common cancer types in the United States. Having CRC in one’s family history is one of the strongest risk factors for this cancer, suggesting a genetic influence in developing CRC. While this cancer can be deadly, many steps can be taken to reduce one’s risk of getting CRC by making healthy lifestyle choices such as improving one’s diet, maintaining a healthy BMI, and engaging in an exercise regimen. Receiving CRC screening is a highly effective method for reducing one’s risk for the disease, however many with CRC in their family histories do not obtain a screening nor make healthy lifestyle choices to reduce their risk. Factors that increase the use of CRC screening methods in high-risk individuals include positive social influence, marital support, and family support for obtaining CRC screening and lessening levels of social isolation in individuals. Having a good support system also increases the chances that at-risk individuals will also participate in making better lifestyle choices to prevent the disease. One’s spouse can be an important source of influence and support for someone with high CRC risk, encouraging their partner to obtain CRC screenings and improve their lifestyle choices. However, the quality of the marital relationship may differ between married couples, and this could affect the outcome of an at-risk individual’s decision to obtain CRC screening and make healthier life choices to reduce risk. For example, a more supportive spouse’s encouragement could be thought of as “being supportive” while encouragement from a spouse who is perceived as more ambivalent may elicit a response that is perceived as “he is trying to be controlling!” Considering the lack of research in regards to the differences in influence and encouragement for lifestyle choices and screening adherence in supportive and ambivalent couples, our study aims to fill this gap in the literature by showing that perceptions of spousal relationship quality (e.g., supportive or ambivalent) may influence at-risk individuals in obtaining screening and making better lifestyle choices. This study particularly looks at relationship quality in a sample of at-risk individuals in increasing healthier lifestyle choices and screening adherence. Additionally, this project examined attitudes in regards to direct-to-consumer (DTC) genetic screenings for CRC and individuals’ rationale for obtaining or not obtaining this screening.

Included in

Psychology Commons