Gender differences in patient-spouse interactions: a sequential analysis of behavioral interactions in patients having osteoarthritic knee pain

Pain. 2004 Nov;112(1-2):183-7. doi: 10.1016/j.pain.2004.08.019.


Theory and research suggest that spousal responses to displays of pain behavior can vary markedly. To our knowledge, observational research on spousal responses to pain behavior has been carried out only in chronic low back pain patients, but not in other populations. In this study systematic observations were conducted of interactions occurring between 50 married osteoarthritis patients (25 male and 25 female) and their respective spouses. Observations were conducted as the patient and spouse performed three common household tasks: sweeping the floor, folding laundry, and carrying small, artificial logs from one side of the room to the other. Contrary to prior research on chronic low back pain this study found that in osteoarthritis patients spouse facilitative behavior preceded and followed patient pain behavior significantly more often than did spouse solicitous behavior. A gender difference in spousal responding to pain behavior also was observed in that wives were significantly more likely to show facilitative behavior preceding and following patient pain behavior than were husbands. The implications of these findings for future research and clinical interventions focused on patient-spouse interactions are discussed.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Ambulatory Care / psychology*
  • Ambulatory Care / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Osteoarthritis, Knee / epidemiology
  • Osteoarthritis, Knee / psychology*
  • Pain / epidemiology
  • Pain / psychology*
  • Sex Characteristics*
  • Spouses / psychology*
  • Spouses / statistics & numerical data
  • Video Recording / methods