GENDER'S ROLE IN RESPONSES TO INFERTILITY

Authors


  • This is a revised version of a paper presented at the 1990 Annual Meeting of the American Psychological Association. This research was supported by grant number HD 21240 from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. The authors want to thank the physicians and staff of the medical clinics who provided access to their patients, the Southeastern Michigan Resolve and Endometriosis Associations, the Oakland County Clerk's Office, and most of all, the individuals who provided the information reported here.

Address correspondence to: Antonia Abbey, Department of Community Medicine, Wayne State University, 4201 St. Antoine, Detroit, MI 48201.

Abstract

Infertility is a major life stressor that affects approximately 10% of U.S. married couples. Infertile women and men have reported experiencing depression, helplessness, and marital strain. Given U.S. society's emphasis on women's role as mothers, it has been suggested that women's lives are more disrupted by infertility than those of men. This hypothesis was supported in a survey of 185 infertile couples and 90 presumed fertile couples. Infertile wives, as compared to their husbands, perceived their fertility problem as more stressful, felt more responsible for and in control of their infertility, and engaged in more problem-focused coping. Infertile husbands experienced more home life stress and lower home life performance than did their wives. These differences were not found for presumed fertile couples. Both infertile and presumed fertile wives experienced more depression, more sexual dissatisfaction, and lower self-esteem than did their husbands. Theoretical and counseling implications of these findings are discussed.

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