The role of marital interaction in chronic pain and depressive symptom severity

R. D. Kerns, J. Haythornthwaite, S. Southwick, E. L. Giller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

134 Scopus citations


Several investigators have noted the moderating role of the spouse in determining the severity and disability associated with the experience of chronic pain. In this study, pain-contingent responses from spouses, but not global marital satisfaction, accounted for a significant proportion of the variance in reported pain severity. Global marital satisfaction predicted depressive symptom severity. The interaction between global marital satisfaction and the reported frequency of punishing responses to pain behavior added significantly to the prediction of depressive symptoms. Similarly, the interaction between marital satisfaction and degree of spouse solicitousness significantly predicted pain severity. These results are consistent with evolving literatures on the important relationship between marital distress, aversive communication and depression on the one hand, and the potentially deleterious role of the solicitous spouse in the maintenance of chronic pain on the other.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)401-408
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Psychosomatic Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1990
Externally publishedYes


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