A growing body of work highlights the need to better understand modifiable relationship processes in couples coping with chronic health conditions. The current study examines associations between couple communication during discussions about type 1 diabetes (T1D) and the relationship and psychological health outcomes of persons with T1D and their partners. Adults with T1D and their partners (N = 398 individuals [199 couples]) completed measures of relationship satisfaction and depressive symptoms. Couples then participated in an 8-min video-recorded discussion about an area of concern related to T1D. Following the discussion, persons with T1D and their partners each completed paper-and-pencil measures of communication. A team of 7 observers subsequently rated communication from the video-recordings. Paper-and-pencil and observer ratings were associated across aspects of communication. We hypothesized that (1) greater destructive communication (e.g., criticism) would be associated with poorer outcomes (i.e., lower levels of relationship satisfaction and higher levels of depressive symptoms), and (2) greater constructive communication (e.g., positivity/warmth) would be associated with superior outcomes (i.e., higher levels of relationship satisfaction and lower levels of depressive symptoms). Data were analyzed with a series of multilevel models in HLM, with both paper-and-pencil and observer measures included as predictors in each model. Consistent with hypotheses, paper-and-pencil measures of communication were generally uniquely associated with adjustment in expected directions. Contrary to hypotheses, observer ratings of communication were not uniquely associated with outcomes when modeled in concert with paper-and-pencil measures of communication. Understanding how persons with T1D and their partners perceive communication around diabetes provides a window into their individual and relationship well-being.
K.J.W. Baucom: None. V. Helgeson: None. C. Berg: None.
National Institutes of Health