Families coping with chronic pain




Jackson, Barbara Kirk

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Moderate to severe chronic non-cancerous pain affects approximately 9% of Americans and their families and significantly impacts healthcare, social, economic, and national issues. Most research studies have focused on understanding the individual family member diagnosed with chronic pain rather than examining the family's role in responding to and managing an enduring illness. The purpose of this study was to explore coping, including religious coping, from the perspective of the family as it relates to family functioning when another adult in the family has been diagnosed with chronic pain. A sample of 73 adult family members completed an anonymous Internet-based survey concerning demographic characteristics, coping methods, including positive and negative religious coping methods, and family functioning. Quantitative measurements included the Brief RCOPE (Pargament, Smith, Koenig, & Perez, 1998) and the Family Environment Scale (Moos & Moos, 2002), and qualitative measurement followed the phenomenological approach (Moustakas, 1994).

Results indicate family functioning is not necessarily affected adversely by the presence of stress from being closely involved with a family member diagnosed with chronic non-cancerous pain. Families who reported moderate to severe family stress during the last month also reported managing family stress the same or better than when the chronic pain was first diagnosed. Positive religious coping was linked to better family functioning in chronic pain families. Families with high cohesion accessed fewer negative religious coping strategies, and 23% of family members spontaneously identified religious coping as a beneficial strategy for managing stress. Chronic pain families, who reported very stressful family environments and were low in cohesion and expressiveness and high in organization, used more negative religious coping strategies.

It is concluded that there are identifiable coping methods, including positive and negative religious coping strategies, which can help or hinder family management of the stress from being in close contact with an adult chronic pain family member and can contribute to either resilient or disruptive family functioning. Chronic pain families with certain family functioning and religious coping profiles are at risk for higher negative religious coping strategies. Implications, suggestions for future research, and limitations are discussed.



Health and environmental sciences, Social sciences, Psychology, Chronic pain, Coping, Families, Pain