PSYCHOLOGICAL RESPONSE IN WIVES OF FIRST MYOCARDIAL INFARCTION PATIENTS (SEX-ROLES)
REPLIN, RICHARD KOMAR
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Serious illness has frequently been found to have a psychological impact on the family of the ill person, particularly the spouse. Authors writing about psychological difficulties in victims of myocardial infarction (MI) have noted that spouses suffer distress as well. Spouses of MI patients, primarily wives, have been specifically examined in a small number of studies, but these studies are frequently anecdotal, or use little known instruments. The present study seeks to replicate and extend findings of previous studies regarding psychological adjustment, but using well known measurement instruments; to consider empirically, rather than anecdotally, possible changes in allocation of role behaviors between spouses; and to consider the possibility that a major, stressful life event could result in some change in a role-related personality trait, in this case instrumentality--expressivity, a major element of masculinity--femininity.;Twenty wives of first MI patients were considered before (retrospectively) MI, and shortly after, and 13 of the wives approximately nine months later. The subjects were psychologically distressed post husband's MI and remain so for at least nine months, though mood is superficially improved at the latter time. Anxiety, depression, rumination, and social withdrawal were evident. Anger appears suppressed. A general decline in marital satisfaction was found, but for a few it increased. Sexual frequency and satisfaction were unchanged. There was no change in wives' instrumentality or expressivity and no change in sharing of household responsibility and decision making. Husbands' instrumentality, as perceived by wives, decreased post MI. Wives who were more instrumental were less distressed and perceived greater personal responsibility at home. Wives who perceive their husbands to be more instrumental express greater marital and sexual satisfaction. Marital satisfaction was not related to level of distress.;It is suggested that lack of change in wives' instrumentality combined with a decrease in husbands' might create role tensions in these families. Further research is needed to consider this and more subtle change in the household of MI patients, to better understand the mechanism of wives' distress. Future research should also consider the relationship between instrumentality and established MI concepts such as the "denier" and Type A personality.