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Developmental Life Stage and Couples' Experiences With Prostate Cancer: A Review of the Literature

Harden, Janet PhD, RN


Prostate cancer affects men in all adult life stages. As couples age, they face developmental tasks specific to their age. The combination of disease-related stressors and ongoing developmental changes may negatively affect the dyad's adjustment to prostate cancer and, consequently, their quality of life (QOL). In spite of this, a life stage perspective has not been used to understand the impact of diagnosis and treatment on patients and their partners across the aging life span. The purpose of this literature review was to explore the relationship between developmental age and disease-specific issues that may affect a couple's QOL as they adapt to a prostate cancer illness. The stages of aging are examined in 3 phases: late middle age (50–64 years); the young-old (65–74); and the old-old (75 years and older). More specifically, these 3 phases were addressed first by presenting the normative developmental challenges of each phase, then disease-related issues from the perspective of the patient, and finally from the perspective of the spousal caregiver. The literature review found that few studies considered age as a relevant factor in the analysis of outcomes of treatment; however, some differences among the groups for both the patient and the caregiver were identified. Ages of participants in the various studies covered a large span of time (50–86 years); consequently, recommendations from these studies do not consider the effect of developmental challenges on the couple's ability to adapt to a prostate cancer diagnosis. Knowledge gaps and implications for research using a developmental approach are identified.

Wayne State University College of Nursing, Detroit, Mich.

Corresponding author: Janet Harden, PhD, RN, Wayne State University College of Nursing, 10 Cohn, 5557 Cass Ave, Detroit, MI 48202 (e-mail:

Accepted for publication January 6, 2005.

© 2005 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.