Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2014

Degree Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

Annmarie Cano


Chronic pain is an important public health problem that is associated with a host of negative individual and relationship outcomes. Chronic pain is a chronic stressor that both the individual in pain and their spouse must cope with. The current study examined how pain coping similarity within the couple predicted not only patient adjustment, but also spouse adjustment in a longitudinal study. Participants were 108 heterosexual couples in which one partner had chronic pain. The participants completed measures at 3 time points at 6 month intervals. Both the patient and spouse individually completed questionnaires pertaining to their marriage, mood, pain and relationship. The sample was diverse for both patients (41.7% Caucasian, 47.2% African-American), and spouses (41.7% Caucasian, 46.3% African-American). The gender of the patients was balanced with 45.4% male (n = 49). The average ages of patients and spouses were 52.29 years and 52.00 years, respectively, and were married an average of 21.26 years. Patients reported average pain duration of 11.72 years. Overall, there were sparse findings in regards to couples coping similarity; however, the findings on each partner's coping strategies and adjustment were more plentiful. The current study found that patients' self-reported coping strategies were associated with concurrent patient-reported adjustment. Further, both patients' and spouses' coping strategies were generally predictive of patient and spouse adjustment over time. A majority of the previous research on coping strategies has focused on concurrent associations between one's own coping and individual adjustment (i.e., pain and depressive symptoms) in patients and the current study supports many of these findings. The current study takes previous research further by examining similarity, spouse adjustment, perceived spousal support, and patient and spouse adjustment over time. It has also examined possible contributing variables to previous findings (i.e., relationship adjustment, perceived spousal support, and spousal adjustment) in an effort to capture the psychosocial complexities of chronic pain. Finally, this is the first study to examine coping and perceived spousal support in couples with chronic pain. Results have implications for research and practice that focuses on patient and their families as well as identifying strategies that best relate to adjustment.