Psychological characteristics of infertile couples: can they predict pregnancy and treatment persistence?



The paper describes an exploratory study of the relative importance of different psychological variables for the prediction of (a) pregnancies and (b) treatment continuation in a sample of 140 couples seeking specialized infertility treatment one year after their first contact with an infertility clinic. The couples filled out questionnaires dealing with psychological and interpersonal functioning, marital and life satisfaction, child-related attitudes, causal attribution of infertility and general expectations towards the treatment. It could be shown that the psychological variables explain a relatively small amount of the variance of the pregnancy criterion. Nevertheless, there were some indications supporting the hypothesis that psychological complaints can be seen as a ‘risk factor’ associated with a lower pregnancy rate. Couples who had terminated treatment after one year indicated a higher amount of psychological and interpersonal complaints (females) as well as partner problems (males and females), and a dominance of internal attributions of the fertility problem. This result—which might help to develop strategies for counselling couples making use of the new reproductive technologies—highlights the importance of attribution and cognitive appraisal in coping with infertility. © 1998 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.