Gender Impacts Chronic Pain Adjustment in Couples

Context, timing of validation and invalidation also affect patients' adjustment

TUESDAY, Dec. 6 (HealthDay News) -- Men, as patients with chronic pain or spouses of someone with chronic pain, appear to be more sensitive to their partner's validation or invalidation responses, and the context and timing of these responses have an impact, according to a study published in the November issue of The Journal of Pain.

Laura E.M. Leong, M.D., from Wayne State University in Detroit, and colleagues assessed how communication patterns that promote or impede intimacy and emotion regulation in couples affect pain, marital satisfaction, and depression. Seventy-eight chronic pain couples who were trying to resolve an area of disagreement in their marriages were evaluated.

The investigators found that, unless patient gender was considered, both sequences and base rates of validation and invalidation communication patterns were almost always unrelated to adjustment variables. Reciprocal invalidation was associated with worse pain in male patient couples, but this was not so for female patient couples. Solely in couples with a male patient, spousal validation correlated with poorer patient pain and marital satisfaction. Patient's adjustments were not only influenced by the presence or absence of validation and invalidation (base rates) but also by the context and timing of these events (sequences).

"Sequences of interaction behaviors that foster and hinder emotion regulation should be attended to when assessing and treating pain patients and their spouses," the authors write.

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