Coping in marital dyads: A contextual perspective on the role of gender and health



In order to create a single measure that simultaneously measures emotion-, problem-, and relationship-focused coping, an exploratory factor analysis was performed on Coyne and Smith's (1994) Relationship-Focused Coping Scale (RFCS) and Carver's (1997) Brief COPE, using data collected from 182 married couples. In 90 couples both spouses were healthy; in 92 couples, one spouse had a chronic illness. Results yielded an abridged 23-item, 6-factor measure. Using the new measure, a series of repeated measures analyses of variance were conducted to determine whether coping styles vary by gender and health. Results showed husbands and wives differ in their use of active engagement, approach coping, and protective buffering depending on whether they are healthy or ill. Guided by Kenny's (1990) Actor-Partner Interaction Model (APIM), results of hierarchical linear modeling analyses using SAS Proc Mixed showed couples who are more congruent in their use of active engagement, and more complementary in their use of protective buffering and avoidance coping report greater marital adjustment. Although husbands and wives may employ different coping strategies, these results highlight the importance of examining the ways in which spouses cope together in the face of a shared stressor.

The course of true love never did run smooth.–

—William Shakespeare