Category: Couples / Close Relationships
Having a child with a severe or chronic medical condition can place stress on parents. In two-parent families, the ways that parents work together to cope with a child’s medical condition is called couple resilience, and couple resilience in parents is expected to correlate with behavioral functioning in their children. Research on this topic is challenging because there are often high correlations between scales measuring different aspects of couple functioning. This makes it difficult to distinguish between different components of couple resilience. It is also difficult to distinguish couple resilience from other related constructs such as couple satisfaction and general measures of personal wellbeing. Fortunately, recent studies using the Couple Resilience Inventory (CRI; Sanford, Backer-Fulgham, & Carson, 2016) have made progress in this area. This research indicates that the CRI assesses two distinct and nearly orthogonal factors: with one that involves engaging in positive behavior and another that involves refraining from negative. Findings show that each dimension is distinct from ratings of relationship satisfaction and independently related to wellbeing in adult respondents. We hypothesized that, in the presence of a child’s medical illness, parents' ratings of positive and negative couple resilience would independently relate to ratings of child behavioral functioning, and that effects would remain significant after controlling for other related variables.
Participants included 356 parents that were either married (89%) or cohabiting (11%), and all reported having a target child with a current or recent serious medical condition (e.g., being admitted to a hospital or receiving treatment for a life threatening medical condition). The parents were 67% female, and their target children had a mean age of 8.7 (SD = 5.4). Participants were recruited using Qualtrics Panels to complete an online survey that included the positive resilience and negative resilience scales of the CRI. They also completed scales measuring current relationship satisfaction, general life wellbeing, and the severity of the target child’s medical condition. Behavioral outcomes in the target children were assessed using the Functional Status II questionnaire (Stein, & Jessop, 1990), an instrument for measuring behavior problems in children with medical conditions (e.g., acting moody, seeming sick and tired, and not sleeping through the night). Consistent with the hypothesis, parents’ ratings of positive and negative couple resilience behavior each predicted unique variance in children's behavior, and these effects remained significant after controlling for parent relationship satisfaction, parent wellbeing, and the severity of the child’s medical condition.