Marital determinants of anxiety and psychosomatic symptoms in pregnancy

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The present study was concerned with the relationship between marital functioning and symptoms, both psychological and somatic, during pregnancy. Past research has focused on the role of personality factors in determining the expectant mother’s symptoms. The importance of the marital relationship in this regard has not been studied systematically. This study followed ten married couples who were expecting their first children over a two-month period during the second trimester of pregnancy. Both husbands and wives independently filled out several check lists every third day for a total of 21 days. These check lists provided measures of physical symptoms, anxiety, marital satisfaction and spouses * perceptions of each other’s behaviors during the preceding 24-hour period. It was found that the most anxious wives were also the most symptomatic and the least maritally satisfied. A relationship was also found between anxiety and satisfaction among the husbands. The daily covariation of these variables with each other as well as with the spouses’ perceptions of each other’s behaviors was also examined. Generally, the results indicated that relationships did exist between daily symptoms, anxiety, satisfaction and spouse-observed behavior categories. Although considerable individual variation obscured these relationships in the group analyses, individual spouse analyses supported the notion that a link exists between how husbands and wives perceive each other’s behavior, and the physical symptoms which each spouse experiences. These spouse-observed behaviors also covaried on a daily basis with both husbands’ and wives’ levels of anxiety and marital satisfaction. The data also indicated that husbands’ symptoms and satisfaction covaried with different spouse-observed behaviors than did wives’ symptoms and satisfaction. The theoretical and clinical implications of these findings were discussed, in particular with regard to the impact of pregnancy on both husbands and wives.