The longitudinal impact of partner coping in couples following 5 years of unsuccessful fertility treatments

B D Peterson, M Pirritano, U Christensen, J Boivin, J Block, L Schmidt
Human Reproduction 2009, 24 (7): 1656-64

BACKGROUND: Because there is a lack of longitudinal research examining the impact of partner coping in couples experiencing infertility, we know very little about the long-term nature of coping with infertility and how partner coping strategies impact personal, marital and social distress.

METHODS: Participants were Danish men and women about to start a cycle of assisted reproduction treatment who were followed for a 5 year period of unsuccessful treatments. Multilevel modeling using the actor-partner interdependence model was used to examine the couple as the unit of analysis.

RESULTS: Active and passive avoidance coping strategies were significantly related to increased personal, marital and social distress at the individual and partner level. Meaning-based coping strategies were related to decreases in a woman's individual distress and her partner's marital distress.

CONCLUSIONS: Partner coping strategies have a significant impact on the other member of the couple over time in men and women undergoing infertility treatments over a 5 year period. Physicians and mental health professionals can educate men and women regarding the ineffectiveness of avoidance coping strategies as well as the beneficial nature of finding new meaning and life goals while experiencing the stress of infertility.

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