The prevalence of chronic illness among children in the United States is on the rise (CDC, 2014). Having a child with a chronic illness can be a substantial source of stress for a couple, including physical, emotional, and financial demands of caregiving as well as difficult decision-making regarding the child’s health (Mayo Clinic, 2015). Coping with such stressors can have a negative effect on the couple’s well-being, and, if not managed within the relationship, can lead to increased negative outcomes for both partners. Partners can, however, learn to cope with stress by engaging in the coping process together with dyadic coping (DC). Couples can engage in positive (i.e., supportive emotion-focused, supportive problem-focused, and delegated) or negative forms of DC. DC has been shown to mitigate stress for couples, while increasing reports of individual well-being (IWB) and relational well-being (RWB), but it has not been examined in the context of couples with a child with a chronic illness.
To bridge this gap, the present study examined how couples cope with general stress as well as stress associated with their child’s diagnosis of a chronic illness (CI-related stress) and whether positive DC and negative DC moderate association between stress (general stress and CI-related stress) and well-being (IWB and RWB). Consistent with hypotheses, there were significant main effects of both types of stress (general and CI-related stress) on both types of well-being (IWB and RWB). Contrary to the hypotheses that DC (positive DC and negative DC) would moderate the associations between both types of stress and both types of well-being, only one significant interaction was found between CI-related stress and negative DC on IWB. Implications of these findings are discussed.