• Journal Article

Effect of couple illness perception congruence on psychological adjustment in women with rheumatoid arthritis


Sterba, K. R., Devellis, R. F., Lewis, M., Devellis, B. M., Jordan, J. M., & Baucom, D. H. (2008). Effect of couple illness perception congruence on psychological adjustment in women with rheumatoid arthritis. Health Psychology, 27(2), 221-229.


OBJECTIVE: To characterize similarities and differences in illness perceptions between women with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and their husbands, and examine whether illness perception congruence predicted wives' subsequent psychological adjustment. DESIGN: Women with RA and their husbands (N=190 couples) recruited from community and clinical settings completed mailed surveys at baseline and 4-month follow-up. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Data for this investigation included illness perceptions in partners and illness severity, marital variables, and psychological adjustment in wives. RESULTS: In general, wives and husbands had similar views of RA. Couple congruence concerning women's personal control over RA and its cyclic nature predicted better psychological adjustment in women 4 months later. Post hoc tests showed better psychological adjustment in wives from couples with similar optimistic beliefs about personal control, illness coherence, and RA consequences, when compared to those in couples with similar pessimistic beliefs. Furthermore, when partners disagreed about RA's consequences, wives fared better when husbands overestimated rather than underestimated their beliefs. In contrast, couple congruence about the emotions and timeline of RA was unrelated to adjustment. CONCLUSION: It may be important for husbands to understand wives' views on their control over RA and its cyclic nature. Furthermore, wives may benefit when they share optimistic views with their husbands about RA, and when their husbands avoid underestimating RA's consequences. Developing interventions to enhance partners' illness understanding may be beneficial