Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)


Human Development and Family Studies

Department name when degree awarded

Family, Consumer, and Human Development

Committee Chair(s)

Kathleen W. Piercy


Kathleen W. Piercy


Ann M. Berghout Austin


Glenna C. Boyce


This study examined factors that influence marital satisfaction in couples raising a child with cerebral palsy. The theoretical frameworks for this study were drawn from family systems theory and the social ecology model.

Twenty-eight married couples raising a child between the ages of 3-17 years, with a diagnosis of cerebral palsy, comprised the sample for this study. Participants were classified as raising a child who is mildly/moderately or severely impaired by cerebral palsy. Participants were recruited through referrals of professionals working in local organizations that provide services and support for persons with disabilities and their families.

Data were analyzed using correlation, and two-tailed t tests. Analysis was based on the following research question: To what extent is the marital satisfaction of couples raising a child between the ages of 3-17 years with a diagnosis of cerebral palsy influenced by couple cohesion and adaptability, individual coping style, and sources of family and community support?

Statistical analysis revealed that for most couples, cohesion and adaptability as measured by FACES II were associated with higher levels of marital satisfaction. For wives, Coping Style I: Maintaining Family Interaction, Cooperation, and an Optimistic Definition of the Situation as measured by the Coping Health Inventory for Parents was found to be positively associated with their marital satisfaction. Husband's coping style was not found to be significantly and positively correlated with their level of marital satisfaction. Analysis of family and community support were not performed due to low alpha reliabilities for both husbands and wives on the Family Support Scale, and the failure of its subscales to hold together. Bivariate correlations of the severity of the child 's disability with the parent's level of marital satisfaction were nonsignificant for both husbands and wives.

Findings from this study support the notion that marital satisfaction in couples with a child with cerebral palsy may be enhanced by couple cohesion and adaptability. Wives who cope by strengthening family life and relationships, and who have a positive outlook on life may also experience greater levels of marital satisfaction. Future research with larger samples of couples is needed to replicate these findings.