The effect of chronic pain on the family unit

J Adv Nurs. 1994 Mar;19(3):543-51. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2648.1994.tb01119.x.


The purpose of the study was to examine what kind of effect a relative with chronic pain had on his or her partner and the other members of the family. The methodology used was grounded theory. The sample was a convenience group of 18 chronic pain sufferers, their partners, and one adult child taken from two pain clinics. The subjects were briefed on the purpose of the study, and how their confidentiality would be protected. Informed consent was then obtained. Data were collected through audio-taped interviews, which were conducted on an individual basis in the subject's home environment. Analysis was conducted through the constant comparative method. Findings revealed that two main variables emerged, that of social relationships and coping techniques. The aspects of social relationships affected were the marital partnership, sexual activity, contact with friends and relatives, and roles. This meant that chronic pain caused social isolation, role tension, marital conflict, reduced sexual activity and feelings of anger, anxiety, resentment and despondency in other family members. However, the results also suggested that the extent to which chronic pain negatively affected the chronic pain sufferer's respective partner and other family members was dependent to some extent on how effective the family was in coping with a relative with chronic pain.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adult
  • Anger
  • Anxiety / prevention & control
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Attitude to Health
  • Chronic Disease
  • Conflict, Psychological
  • Depression / prevention & control
  • Depression / psychology
  • Family / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Marriage / psychology
  • Nursing Methodology Research
  • Outpatient Clinics, Hospital
  • Pain / nursing
  • Pain / psychology*
  • Role
  • Sampling Studies
  • Sexual Behavior
  • Social Isolation
  • Stress, Psychological / prevention & control
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Tape Recording