The Relationship Between Recreation and Marital Satisfaction of
Couples in Which One Spouse Has Breast Cancer
Faculty Mentor: Ramon Zabriskie, Recreation Management and Youth Leadership
According to the American Cancer Society, it is expected that in the year 2006 alone,
approximately 564, 830 Americans will die from cancer, ensuring cancer‟s place as the second
leading cause of death in the United States. Cancer research has been going on for decades.
Community and outreach programs have been designed to help people receiving treatment and
those recovering from cancer (Bourque & Shannon, 2005), but for the chronically and terminally
ill, there is little help beyond mere improvements of physical comfort. Cancer forces individuals
to make adjustments in daily activities and, consequently, relationships are affected. As the
cancer progresses and increases in severity, many spouses experience a role switch from husband
or wife, to caregiver; many terminally ill oncology patients, as well as their caregivers,
experience a significant decrease in life satisfaction (Connell & Gallant, 1999).
In Berg‟s (2002) study, research showed that the wives of men with Chronic Obstructive
Pulmonary Disease (COPD), a terminal illness, “were desperately in need of more intimate
contact with their husbands, but closeness had deteriorated because of the husband‟s illness” (p.
617). This deterioration, combined with new roles, can cause strain. According to a study
performed by Carter et al. (1998), “[a]s role strain increased, recreation time and satisfaction
decreased, and this was significantly related to higher distress scores” (p. 120).
This project is loosely based on Bergs‟ (2002) research where women participants reported that
they “were dissatisfied with their lack of recreation” in addition to other social factors, such as a
familial or medical support system (p. 613). This was a small-scale study, involving only six
couples, in which only the wives were interviewed.
As a result of decreased abilities, many chronically and terminally ill oncology patients become
unable to participate in normal recreation and leisure activities, and because married individuals
tend to identify themselves as a couple rather than individuals (Rogers, 1999), they have
difficulty engaging in leisure activities as a couple. Consequently, leisure is often sacrificed.
Previous research has consistently indicated that “satisfaction with one‟s leisure is highly
correlated to overall life satisfaction in middle and late adulthood…Unfortunately, leisure is not
a reality for many caregivers” (Rogers, 1999, p. 37).
This research project focuses on the relationship between recreation and leisure pursuits as a
couple and marital satisfaction in relation to breast cancer. The greatest difference between this
project and other research is that data is collected from both the husband and wife, in a much
larger sample, regardless of which individual has the cancer. This will enable the researcher to
assess perceptions and satisfaction from both sides of the illness, whether patient or caregiver.
The research instrument consists of a Leisure Interests Survey, the Marital Activity Profile
(MAP), the Satisfaction With Married Life scale (SWFL), and a demographic section. The
Leisure Interests Survey consists of ten items in which participants will identify individual and
couple leisure preferences. The MAP is a 15-item scale that is designed to “determine couple
leisure involvement in core and balance leisure activities and leisure satisfaction”; the SWML is
a 5-item scale designed to “measure marital satisfaction” (Hill, Johnson & Zabriskie, 2006, p.
69). The demographic section identifies facts that may impact responses on assessments, such as
age, number of years married, number of children and grandchildren, duration of time living with
Due to unexpected difficulties in data collection, the present sample size in insufficient to
produce reliable results. Consequently, researchers will continue their efforts until a satisfactory
sample size is achieved. Data will be collected from both husbands and wives in an effort to
analyze data from both a patient and caregiver/spouse perspective. Data will be entered and
cleaned. Demographic data will be analyzed with descriptive statistics to examine sample
characteristics then zero-order correlations will be employed to examine for multicolinearity
among study variables and identify control variables. Blocked entry multiple regression models
will be utilized to examine the contribution of leisure variables to marital satisfaction from both
It is hypothesized that there will be a positive correlation between couple leisure satisfaction and
marital satisfaction after controlling for other variables. Results may also identify new avenues
for cost effective intervention that can influence the quality of life of adult oncology patients and
As a recent graduate in Recreation Therapy, I plan to design programs to address the needs of,
not only the individual with a disabling condition, but also their caregiver and family. This
special population has long been overlooked and it is time for healthcare and human service
professionals to address these significant needs.
Bergs, D. (2002). „The hidden client‟—women caring for husbands with COPD: Their
experience of quality of life. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 11, p. 613-621.
Bourque, D. & Shannon, C. (2005). Overlooked and underutilized: The critical role of leisure
interventions in facilitating social support through breast cancer treatment and recovery. Social
Work in Health Care, 42(1), p. 73-92.
Carter, B., Eid, N., Espelage, D., Opipari, L. & Quittner, A. (1998). Role strain in couples with
and without a child with a chronic illness: Associations with marital satisfaction, intimacy and
daily mood. Health Psychology, 17(2), p. 112-124.
Connell, C. M. & Gallant, M. P. (1999). Caregiver health behavior: Review, analysis and
recommendations for research. Activities, Adaptation and Aging, 24(2), p. 1-16.
Hill, B., Johnson, H. & Zabriskie, R. (2006). The contribution of couple leisure involvement,
leisure time and leisure satisfaction to marital satisfaction. Marriage and Family Review, p. 69-
Rogers, N. (1999). Family obligation, caregiving and loss of leisure: The experiences of three
caregivers. Activities, Adaptation & Aging, 24(2), p. 35-49.