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Chronic illness is currently the outstanding health issue in the United States It creates increased family stress, requires constant adaptation by the family members and poses a challenge to nurses to better understand and meet the needs of the family as well as the individual This paper presents a psychosocial typology of chronic illness and discusses the importance of time phasing of the chronic illness A conceptual framework for analysing the interaction of chronic illness with family and individual life-cycles is outlined Knowledge of life-cycle stressors is essential for nurses to better delineate the relationship between the vertical and horizontal life stressors which affect the family system