Family functioning and marital satisfaction reported by women with fibromyalgia, their spouses, and control groups

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Chenhall, Pamela J.
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Fibromyalgia (FM) is a widespread, musculoskeletal pain condition that is diagnosed with greater frequency in women than men. Its history in the research literature is short, although symptoms of the condition have appeared in the written word for centuries. The majority of the existing research has focussed on identifying the origins and pathogenesis of the disorder. To date, relatively little emphasis has been placed on exploring the psychological impact of fibromyalgia. Fifty FM patients and their spouses were compared to 50 matched, chronic pain-free and chronic illness-free couples on family functioning and marital satisfaction. Based on the published literature, three methodological improvements were made to the research design including the use of a control group, increasing the sample size, and attempting to obtain a more representative sample of chronic pain sufferers within the FM group. Based on the published literature one could expect that the FM group's scores on the family functioning measureand the marital satisfaction measure would differ significantly from the control group. However, the FM group is not well understood and therefore the purpose of this research was to explore in what way family functioning and marital satisfaction was reported by women diagnosed with FM and their spouses relative to the control group. It was found that the FM group did not differ from the control group on reported family functioning and marital satisfaction. Possible sources of disparity between the published literature and the current data were explored, including the methodological improvements and the possibility that the FM group is not comparable to other chronic pain groups. Future research expanding on the methodological changes made and focussing on those families who are able to successfully adapt to the challenge of chronic pain was recommended.