STUDY OF PERCEIVED CARING IN THE VITAL-TOTAL RELATIONSHIP
MOSCHETTA, EVELYN FIRESTONE
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The purpose of this study is to gain an understanding of both the character and subjective meaning of caring as it is actually expressed and experienced by couples in vital-total relationships. The prime objective in conducting this research is to take the concept of caring and inquire into the actuality of the phenomenon as it is perceived by the couples themselves. The study also seeks to identify how caring functions in promoting individual growth and growth of the marital relationship.;Within a phenomenological-descriptive design, a dialogal research approach is utilized in interviewing twenty-five couples who perceive themselves to be in good loving marital relationships. Three conditions operated in the selection of the study sample: external perception of referring agents, couple's own perception of themselves as a "caring couple" and the objective score achieved on the Vital-Total Marital Relationship Scale. Each partner was interviewed individually for approximately one and one-half hours, the interviews being structured around a thirteen-question schedule prepared by the researcher. Each couple's interview was tape-recorded and typed verbatim into transcripts. The tape recordings and transcripts constituted the data base for the study. A detailed content analysis procedure was then applied to the interview-generated responses.;Study findings show that couples in a vital-total type of marital relationship express three specific forms of caring which are directly related to personal and marital relationship growth. This growth producing caring is delineated into Reverential, Sustenance and Intentional Caring. Each of these three forms of caring is defined in terms of behaviors and associated subjective feelings. Reverential, Sustenance and Intentional Caring is found to originate in three sources: (1) the establishment and maintenance of unquestioned trust and commitment; (2) the awareness of the necessity for personal growth and change; and (3) a shift in priorities from material to spiritual values.