Dyadic Management of Chronic Pain in Lesbian Couples

Ashley Randall, PhD
Arizona State University
Award Year: 2016

Initial Abstract

Chronic Pain (CP) affects an estimated 100 million Americans, and costs the U.S. healthcare system $261-$310 billion each year. Compared to heterosexual individuals, sexual minorities experience higher rates of CP, and sexual minority women (i.e., lesbians) may be at particular risk because females are diagnosed more frequently with CP compared to males. Based on the biopsychosocial (BPS) framework, there is an increasing need to examine how social factors, specifically the role of romantic partner support, impact the etiology and maintenance of CP and outcomes for both the patient and their partner. The involvement of one’s partner in care (dyadic-management of care) has been shown to be an important predictor for heterosexual individuals in reducing symptoms of pain, depression, and increasing marital functioning. Unfortunately, individuals in a same-sex relationship may be hesitant to disclose their sexual orientation to health-care providers, fearing poorer quality of care; thus, dyadic management of care in lesbian couples is an important factor to understand. We propose to collect daily diary data from 100 couples to examine dyadic management of care as a mechanism underlying the effects of CP on biological (pain), psychological (individual well-being, such as symptoms of distress), and social (relational well-being, such as relationship quality) outcomes for lesbians in same-sex partnerships. Daily surveys will permit a more nuanced investigation of relational dynamics influencing how lesbian couples cope with CP and provide evidence for direction of effects. Results from this project will be important in understanding social, family, and interpersonal influences as sources of stress or support for lesbian women. Additionally, our results will help inform targeted intervention strategies, such as improving support and coping skills for lesbians and their partners, which can promote management of chronic conditions that have not yet been adequately addressed. Together the PIs have expertise in Family Studies and Counseling Psychology, experience in using daily diary methodologies to study same-sex relationships, and use an interdisciplinary approach to draw implications for both scholars and practitioners.

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