Care receiving : the relationship between attachment and reactions to being helped, relationship functioning, and perceived quality of life in a sample of individuals with multiple sclerosis
Litke, Karen Lea
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In healthy adult relationships both participants serve as attachment figures and caregivers, with each partner seeking and providing care for the other as needed (Hazan & Shaver, 1987). However, chronic illness may result in one individual requiring disproportionately more care without being able to fully reciprocate. The purpose of this research was to investigate the relevance of attachment as a predictor of care receiving, relationship, and health related variables, in a sample of adults experiencing a chronic illness. This investigation employed survey methodology, and 68 individuals with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) participated. Hierarchical multiple regression analyses supported theoretically derived hypotheses. Attachment, conceptualized in terms of the orthogonal constructs of attachment anxiety and attachment avoidance, was found to be a relevant construct in predicting self-reported reaction to care receiving, relationship functioning and quality of life in a sample of individuals with MS. Analyses revealed that elevated attachment anxiety is associated with feelings such as anger, embarrassment, and indebtedness in response to receiving help, while elevated attachment avoidance predicted care receiver perceptions that they were being discouraged from continued independence. In terms of relationship functioning, care receivers with elevated attachment anxiety and care receivers with elevated attachment avoidance reported less trust, acceptance, and intimacy in their relationships, and were less committed to their relationships and their relationship partners. Additionally, elevated attachment avoidance was predictive of lower overall relationship satisfaction. Finally, elevated attachment anxiety predicted poorer mental health and overall quality of life, while elevated attachment avoidance predicted poorer physical health. Interactions between attachment constructs and type of caregiver (spouse/partner vs. other) were observed in several analyses suggesting that attachment anxiety exerts its strongest influence within committed relationships, whereas the power of attachment avoidance appears to be generally more pervasive. The results of this investigation can be understood within the context of the biopsychosocial model of coping with chronic illness. Knowledge of attachment style may be clinically useful as it provides insight into individuals’ behaviour and emotional experiences in relationships. Attachment- informed interventions may lead to improvement in relationships and subsequent improvement in psychological functioning and physical heath.
DegreeDoctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
CommitteeLawson, Karen L.; Forbes, Dorothy; Morgan, Debra
Copyright DateMarch 2006