The social epidemiology of coping with infertility

L Schmidt, U Christensen, B E Holstein
Human Reproduction 2005, 20 (4): 1044-52

BACKGROUND: To analyse the cross-sectional association between coping responses with infertility and occupational social class. Infertility is evenly distributed across social classes in Denmark, and there is free access to high-quality assisted reproduction technology.

METHODS: Data were based on a questionnaire in a consecutive sample of 1169 women and 1081 Danish men who were about to begin assisted reproduction treatment. The coping measure was developed from an adaptation of Lazarus and Folkman's Ways of Coping Questionnaire and based on results from interviews with infertile people. The measure was developed in four categories: active-avoidance coping; active-confronting coping; passive-avoidance coping; meaning-based coping. These subscales were later confirmed by factor analysis. Occupational social class was measured in a standardized way.

RESULTS: Contrary to expectations, the logistic regression analyses showed that women from lower social classes V + VI and men from social classes III + IV used significantly more active-confronting coping. Women from lower social classes V + VI used significantly more meaning-based coping. Both men and women from social classes III - VI used significantly more passive-avoidance coping and significantly less active-avoidance coping.

CONCLUSION: Due to the significant social differences in coping with infertility, the study suggested that elements of coping may be learned from one's social network and reference group.

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