The impact of childhood chronic illness on parents' marital quality has received limited attention. Most studies have relied solely on mothers' reports and have not examined differences between mothers and fathers. Using a case-control design, this study compared the marital quality within and between dyads of 46 couples with children with spina bifida and 46 couples with healthy children matched on the age and sex of the child. During a home visit, parents completed both self-report measures and a communication observational task. Mothers' and fathers' reports of marital quality did not differ between the two groups. Also, no significant differences were found on other marital and psychosocial measures. The most interesting correlations were observed for fathers of children with spina bifida whose marital quality was associated with parenting stress (r = -.51), depression (r = -.34), and role strain (r = -.34). Overall, the results of this study contribute to the growing body of literature demonstrating that parents of children with a chronic condition are at no greater risk for psychosocial dysfunction, including marital distress, than parents of healthy children. However, to generalize the results, additional research on marital quality with other chronic conditions is required.

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Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics
Department of Psychology

Cappelli, M. (Mario), McGrath, P.J. (Patrick J.), Daniels, T, Manion, I. (Ian), & Schillinger, J. (John). (1994). Marital Quality of Parents of Children with Spina Bifida: A Case-Comparison Study. Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, 15(5), 320–326.