Predictors of psychological distress for infertile husbands and wives

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Counseling Psychology

First Committee Member

Carolyn Garwood - Committee Chair


This study examined how variables which are related to infertility contribute to the prediction of the psychological distress of infertile husbands and wives. These variables were age, life stress events rating, causal attribution category, level of optimism regarding prognosis, diagnostic category, and spouse's level of psychological distress. Further, cross-tabulations of diagnostic category and couple distress patterns for the 76 couples were examined to determine their association. These diagnostic categories were male only, female only, and both members having the medical diagnosis.Stepwise multiple regression analysis was used to determine the additive and unique contributions of the independent variables to the overall psychological distress, as measured by the Symptom Checklist 90-Revised (Derogatis, 1977). Life stress events rating, spouse's psychological distress and diagnostic category (specifically, when other than the female only had the diagnosis) explained 24% of the variance in the husbands' psychological distress. Life stress events rating, spouse's psychological distress, and causal attribution category explained 28% of the variance in wives' psychological distress.Cross-tabulation resulted in strong suggestion that specific diagnostic categories do increase the likelihood of certain patterns of couple distress. In 54% of the couples, neither the husband nor the wife was distressed. Couples with non-distressed husbands and distressed wives were most likely to have a female only diagnosis. Couples where both members had a diagnosis were most likely to be both non-distressed. Concordance rates for diagnostic category between husbands and wives was only 76%, suggesting that the infertility diagnosis is perceived differently by husbands and wives. Further, wives were significantly more distressed than husbands on all but one measure in the study and attributed the cause for infertility more globally in their lives.These results suggest certain patterns associated with greater distress for husbands, wives, and couples experiencing infertility. Examination of these patterns should assist medical and mental health professionals in identifying those infertiles at risk for psychological distress as well as aid in the design of appropriate interventions.


Psychology, Social

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