Role strain in couples with and without a child with a chronic illness: associations with marital satisfaction, intimacy, and daily mood

Health Psychol. 1998 Mar;17(2):112-24. doi: 10.1037//0278-6133.17.2.112.


This study examined marital role strain in 33 couples caring for a child with cystic fibrosis (CF) and 33 couples with a healthy child. The relationship between role strain, marital satisfaction, and psychological distress was tested. Couples completed a structured interview, questionnaires, a card sort procedure, and 4 daily diaries assessing activities and mood. Couples in the CF versus comparison group reported greater role strain on measures of role conflict, child-care tasks, and exchanges of affection. They also spent less time in recreational activities, but no reliable group differences were found in marital satisfaction or depression. Regression analyses indicated that role strain was related to marital satisfaction and depression and that recreation time accounted for additional variance. Path analysis suggested that recreation mediated the negative relationship between role strain and distress. The importance of using a contextual, process-oriented approach is discussed.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Chronic Disease
  • Cystic Fibrosis*
  • Depression / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Indiana
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Male
  • Marriage / psychology*
  • Parenting / psychology
  • Parents / psychology*
  • Personal Satisfaction
  • Recreation
  • Regression Analysis
  • Role*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*