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Access Type

WSU Access

Date of Award

January 2018

Degree Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

Annmarie Cano


Prior research has demonstrated that social factors can influence pain and adjustment for individuals with chronic pain (Fordyce, 1976; Gatchel, Peng, Peters, Fuchs, & Turk, 2007). Although emotional validation (e.g., an empathic response to distress) has been put forth as one factor that may influence pain adjustment, the effects of emotional validation are largely unknown, and competing theoretical models posit both positive and negative effects (Cano & Williams, 2010; Edmond & Keefe, 2015). The current study examined predictions made by theoretical models of emotional validation and pain. The study included 40 romantic couples, of which one individual experienced chronic pain (ICPs). Unbeknownst to ICPs, their partners were randomly assigned to receive either validation training or control training. Following partner training, ICPs and their partners engaged in a discussion about the pain and then, couples completed a series of household tasks together. Results showed that the validation training was successful in increasing partner validation. ICPs in the validation condition were less involved during the household tasks, although partners in the validation condition did not discourage physical activity, offer help, or assist ICPs any more than those in the control condition. Results showed that regardless of condition, ICPs did not experience significant changes in pain intensity throughout the study. However, the validation condition experienced greater pain intensity at baseline, after the discussion, and during the household tasks. The validation and control conditions did not differ in regard to ICP pain behavior. Findings also revealed that the instrumental support scale of the Multidimensional Pain Inventory did not predict observed instrumental support during the household tasks. Results also demonstrated that verbal pain behavior and emotional disclosures were not associated with other measures of pain. These findings the importance of closer operational definitions of instrumental support (i.e., solicitous) variables and pain variables (e.g., distinguishing non-verbal and verbal pain). In sum, the study did not produce results fully consistent with any theoretical model and suggests further research is needed to better understand how emotional validation may affect possible ICP avoidance behavior, whether other partner responses are preferable, and whether validation may have different effects over time.

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