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Selected Research Project
Project Title The Role of Social Cognition in Support Provision and Adjustment in Cancer Caregiving: A Longitudinal Analysis
Principal Investigator

Dr. Hou Wai Kai

Area of Research Project Psychological Studies
Project Period
From 1/2012 To 12/2014
This 12-month prospective study aims to examine the biological bases and interpersonal processes of adjustment among Chinese family caregivers of cancer patients in Hong Kong.
Methods Used
Caregivers provide saliva samples for determining their physiological stress response (i.e., cortisol levels) and complete a video task that assesses their ability to correctly understand the thoughts and feelings of others (i.e., empathy). Patients and caregivers are also administered questionnaires that assess their perceived effectiveness of social support (i.e., satisfaction with the match between wanted support and received/provided support) and adjustment outcomes (i.e., social relationship quality and anxiety and depressive symptoms).
Overall, the findings of this project will inform development of educational and intervention programs that enhance the skills of caregivers in supporting cancer patients, thereby facilitating positive adjustment for both patients and caregivers.
Summary of Findings
  • Offer prospective evidence on the biological basis of the social cognitive and supportive processes and adjustment outcomes in Chinese cancer caregivers.
  • Test the hypothesis that higher empathic accuracy of caregivers will contribute to higher perceived effectiveness of social support and in turn to higher relationship quality and lower anxiety and depressive symptoms of caregivers as well as patients.
  • Introduce caregiving engagement to the existing cancer caregiving literature as a novel behavioral outcome measure.
  • The biological basis of empathic accuracy in the course of caregiving: Associations with relationship quality, affective symptoms, and perceived engagement among Chinese caregivers of people with colorectal cancer.
  • The first year of cancer caregiving: change in social support effectiveness mediates the association between the change in empathic accuracy and that in psychosocial adjustment outcomes.
  • The matching in perceived social support effectiveness between Chinese caregivers and people with colorectal cancer depends in part on caregivers’ collectivistic orientations and recipients’ support seeking tendency.
  • The reciprocity between support seeking tendency and perceived support effectiveness in the year after diagnosis: An investigation among Chinese people with colorectal cancer.
  • Higher caregiving engagement during treatment predicts higher affective symptoms and lower physical and social functioning among Chinese caregivers in a one-year follow-up.
  • Assessing empathy accuracy among Chinese caregivers of people with colorectal cancer: A multi-method approach.
Biography of Principal Investigator
Wai Kai Hou is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychological Studies. His research aims to develop frameworks for integrating social, psychological, and biological levels of analysis of human resilience and adaptation to stress. His research utilizes a variety of methods, ranging from implicit association test and self-report questionnaires to physiological measures and neuroimaging.

Dr. Hou works on three specific areas: emotion, psychobiology of stress and resilience, and adaptation to chronic medical conditions.
Funding Source

General Research Fund