PERSONALITY VARIABLES IN COPING WITH THE STRESS OF A SPOUSE'S CHRONIC ILLNESS

SANDRA Z SCHOENEMAN, Fordham University

Abstract

Chronic illness is stressful not only for the patient, but for the members of his family as well. Although most of the literature has dealt with the patient's handling of his illness, there is evidence that the spouse's ability to adjust successfully relates both to her own and the patient's mental and physical health. The chronic illness studied here was end-stage renal disease and its treatment, hemodialysis, the latter including both home and center treatment.^ Locus of control is a variable which has been shown to relate to adjustment. Locus of control refers to the degree to which an individual perceives the events that happen to him as dependent on his own behavior or as a result of luck, chance, fate, or powerful others. The original construct has been elaborated by means of factor analysis and by the development of area-specific measures such as the health locus of control scale.^ It was hypothesized that the general attribute, locus of control, could ameliorate for the individual the stress of living with his or her mate's chronic illness. To the extent that a person feels he can affect his environment to determine the course of his life in general, and the course of a more specific area of his life, health, in particular (greater internality), he would more likely be better adjusted than a person who does not possess this perception to the same extent, (greater externality). Also it was proposed that within the external orientation, a stronger belief that one is controlled by impersonal, capricious fate would be less adaptive than a stronger belief that powerful other persons control one's life. Further analysis was also carried out to assess the relationship between orientation and adjustment, specifically for the members of the home hemodialysis sub-group.^ Fifty-six spouses of patients on hemodialysis, matched for race, socioeconomic status, and type of treatment, home or other dialysis, served as subjects. Each subject was administered a battery of tests which measured locus of control orientation, consisting of the Internal-External Locus of Control Scale (I-E), the Multidimensional Locus of Control Scale (MLC), and the Multidimensional Health Locus of Control Scale (MHLC). The State-Trait Anxiety Scale (STAI) and the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) were also given and served as the criterion measures for adjustment.^ The hypotheses involving greater internal locus of control and better adjustment were fully supported for both the total group of hemodialysis wives and for the sub-group of home hemodialysis wives. The correlations between a greater internal locus of control and less anxiety, both state (r(54) = 26, p < .05), and trait (r(54) = .41, p < .001), and less depression (r(54) = .47, p < .001), were all significant for the entire group of wives. Regarding the sub-group of home wives, the results indicated that a greater internal locus of control was significantly correlated with less anxiety, both state (r(26) = .42, p < .01), and trait (r(26) = .52, p < .01), and with less depression, (r(26 = .63, p < .001). However, the relationship between health locus of control and adjustment was not supported for either the whole group or for the sub-group of home hemodialysis wives. In addition, none of the predictions about the external orientation were confirmed. And, finally, the home wives were not found to be more internal than the center wives.^ There were several clinical suggestions made on the basis of these results. It was suggested that externally oriented women be identified early and be exposed to a therapeutic intervention which encourages a more internal orientation. If so treated, frequently and over a long period of time, perhaps they would be better able to deal with the stress of their husband's illness. Also, more speculatively, spouses should be encouraged to accept what they cannot change; namely, their husband's chronic illness. ^

Subject Area

Clinical psychology

Recommended Citation

SCHOENEMAN, SANDRA Z, "PERSONALITY VARIABLES IN COPING WITH THE STRESS OF A SPOUSE'S CHRONIC ILLNESS" (1981). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI8123468.
http://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI8123468

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