Family Caregivers of Women with Physical Disabilities

  • Patricia A. RiveraEmail author
  • Timothy R. Elliott
  • Jack W. Berry
  • Richard M. Shewchuk
  • Kimberly D. Oswald
  • Joan Grant
Original Paper


Cross-sectional, correlational analyses of data from two separate studies were conducted to examine the correlates of adjustment among family caregivers of women with disabilities. Participants included 40 caregivers of women with spinal cord injuries in the first study and 53 caregivers of women with cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury, and other neuromuscular disabilities in the second study. It was hypothesized that a negative problem-solving style would be associated with greater caregiver distress in both studies, and that caregiver adjustment would be associated with care recipient depression in the second study. As expected, results indicated that a higher negative orientation toward solving problems was associated with caregiver depression and lower well-being. However, in the second study, caregiver characteristics were not associated with care recipient depression. These data indicate that considerable variability exists in caregiver adjustment. Methodological limitations and the implications for research, service, and policy formation are! discussed.


Caregiver Women Disability 



This research was supported by grants from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (#H133N5009 and #H133B980016A), National Institute on Child Health and Human Development (#T32 HD07420), and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (#R49/CE000191, #R49/CCR403641, and R49/CCR412718-01) to the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The contents of this report are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the funding agencies.


  1. Aneshensel, C. S., Pearlin, L. I., Mullan, J. T., Zarit, S. H., & Whitlatch, C. J. (1995). Profiles in caregiving: The unexpected career. San Diego, CA: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  2. Braddock, D. (1999). Aging and developmental disabilities: Demographic and policy issues affecting American families. Mental Retardation, 37, 155–161.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Carey, P., Oberst, M. T., McCubbin, M. A., & Hughes, S. (1991). Correlates of caregiving demand and distress in family members caring for patients receiving chemotherapy. Oncology Nursing Forum, 18, 1341–1348.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Chau, N., Daler, S., Andre, J. M., & Patris, A. (1994). Inter-rater agreement of two functional independence scales: The Functional Independence Measure (FIMSM) and a subjective uniform continuous scale. Disability and Rehabilitation, 16(2), 63–71.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Chwalisz, K. (1996). The perceived stress model of caregiver burden: Evidence from the spouses of persons with brain injuries. Rehabilitation Psychology, 41, 91–114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Craig, T., & Van Natta, P. A. (1978). Current medication use in symptoms of depression in a general population. American Journal of Psychiatry, 135, 1036–1039.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Diener, E., Emmons, R. A., Larsen, R., & Griffin, S. (1985). The satisfaction with life scale. Journal of Personality Assessment, 49, 71–75.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Dodds, T. A., Martin, D. P., Stolov, W. C., & Deyo R. A. (1993). A validation of the functional independence measure and its performance among rehabilitation inpatients. Archives of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, 74, 531–536.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Donelan, K., Falik, M., & DesRoches, C. (2001). Caregiving: Challenges and implications for women’s health. Women’s Health Issues, 11, 185–200.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Donelan, K., Hill, C. A., Hoffman, C., Scoles, K., Hoffman, P. H., Levine, C., & Gould, D. (2002). Challenged to care: informal caregivers in a changing health system. Health Affairs, 21, 222–231.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. D′Zurilla, T. J., Nezu, A. M., & Maydeu-Olivares, A. (2002). Social problem solving inventory-revised. North Tonoawanda, NY: Multi-health Systems.Google Scholar
  12. Elliott, T., Shewchuk, R., & Richards, J. S. (2001). Family caregiver social problem-solving abilities and adjustment during the initial year of the caregiving role. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 48, 223–232.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Elliott, T., & Parker, M. W. (in press). Family caregivers and health care providers: Developing partnerships for a continuum of care and support. In R. Talley & J. Crews (Eds.), Caregiving for individuals with disabilities. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Elliott, T., Shewchuk, R., & Richards, J. S. (1999). Caregiver social problem solving abilities and family member adjustment to recent-onset physical disability. Rehabilitation Psychology, 44, 104–123.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Fine, M., & Asch, A. (1988). Disability beyond stigma: Social interaction, discrimination, and activism. Journal of Social Issues, 44, 3–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Folstein, M., Folstein, S., & McHugh, P. (1975). Mini-mental state. A practical method for grading the cognitive state of patients for the clinician. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 12, 189–198.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Frank, R. G., Chaney, J., Shutty, M., Clay, D., Beck, N., Kay, D., Elliott, T., & Gramling, S. (1992). Dysphoria: A major factor of depression in persons with disability or chronic illness. Psychiatry Research, 43, 231–241.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Granger, C., Cotter, A. C., Hamilton, B., & Fiedler, R. C. (1993). Functional assessment scales: A study of persons after stroke. Archives of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, 74, 133–138.Google Scholar
  19. Grant, J. S., Elliott, T., Giger, J., & Bartolucci, A. (2001). Social problem-solving abilities, social support, and adjustment among family caregivers of individuals with a stroke. Rehabilitation Psychology, 46, 44–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hanna, W. J., & Rogovsky, B. (1991). Women with disabilities: Two handicaps plus. Disability, Handicap & Society, 6(1), 49–63.Google Scholar
  21. Hoffman, C., Rice, D., & Sung, H. (1996). Persons with chronic conditions: Their prevalence and costs. Journal of the American Medical Association, 276, 1473–1479.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hughes, R. B., Robinson-Whelen, S., Taylor, H., Petersen, N., & Nosek, M. (2005). Characteristics of depressed and nondepressed women with physical disabilities. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 86, 473–479.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Kramer, B. (1997). Gain in the caregiving experience: Where are we? What next? The Gerontologist, 33, 240–249.Google Scholar
  24. Kurylo, M., Elliott, T., DeVivo, L., & Dreer, L. (2004). Caregiver social problem-solving abilities and family member adjustment following congestive heart failure. Journal of Clinical Psychology in Medical Settings, 11, 151–157.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Moen, P., Robison, J., & Dempster-McClain, D. (1995). Caregiving and women’s well-being: A life course approach. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 36, 259–273.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Navaie-Waliser, M., Feldman, P. H., Gould, D., Levine, C., Kuerbis, A., & Donelan, K. (2002). When the caregiver needs care: The plight of vulnerable caregivers. American Journal of Public Health, 92, 409–413.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Nosek, M. A., Howland, C., Rintala, D. H., Young, M. E., & Chanpong, M. S. (2001). National study of women with physical disabilities: Final report. Sexuality and Disability, 19, 5–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Nosek, M. A., & Hughes, R. B. (2003). Psychosocial issues of women with physical disabilities: The continuing gender debate. Rehabilitation Counseling Bulletin, 46, 224–233.Google Scholar
  29. Nosek, M. A., Hughes, R. B., Swedlund, N., Taylor, H. B., & Swank, P. (2003). Self-esteem and women with disabilities. Social Science and Medicine, 56, 1737–1747.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Oberst, M. T., Thomas, S. E., Gass, K. A., & Ward, S. E. (1989). Caregiving demands and appraisal of stress among family caregivers. Cancer Nursing, 12, 209–215.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. O’Sullivan, R. L., Fava, M., Agustin, C., Baer, L., & Rosenbaum, J. (1997). Sensitivity of the six-item hamilton depression rating scale. Acta Psychiatria Scandanavia, 95, 379–384.Google Scholar
  32. Parish, S. L., Pomeranz-Essley, A., & Braddock, D. (2003). Family support in the United States: Financing trends and emerging initiatives. Mental Retardation, 41(3), 174–187.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Pennebaker, J. W. (1982). The psychology of physical symptoms. New York: Springer-Verlag.Google Scholar
  34. Radloff, L. S. (1977). The CES-D scale: A self-report depression scale for research in the general population. Applied Psychological Measurement, 1, 385–401.Google Scholar
  35. Shewchuk, R., & Elliott, T. (2000). Family caregiving in chronic disease and disability: Implications for rehabilitation psychology. In R. G. Frank & T. Elliott (Eds.), Handbook of rehabilitation psychology (pp. 553–563). Washington, D. C.: American Psychological Association Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Stein, P. N., Sliwinski, M. J., Gordon, W. A., & Hibbard, M. R. (1996). Discriminative properties of somatic and nonsomatic symptoms in post stroke depression. Clinical Neuropsychologist, 10, 141–148.Google Scholar
  37. Uniform Data Set For Medical Rehabilitation (1996). Guide for the use of the uniform data set for medical rehabilitation, Version 5.0. Buffalo, NY: State University of New York at Buffalo Research Foundation.Google Scholar
  38. Vitaliano, P. P., Young, H., & Zhang, J. (2004). Is caregiving a risk factor for illness? Current Directions in Psychological Science, 13, 13–16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Vitaliano, P. P., Zhang, J., & Scanlan, J. (2003). Is caregiving hazardous to one’s physical health? A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 129, 946–972.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Ware, J., Snow, K., Kosinski, M., & Gandek, B. (1993). SF-36 Health survey: Manual and interpretation guide. Boston: The Health Institute, New England Medical Center.Google Scholar
  41. Zimmerman, M., & Coryell, W. (1987). The Inventory to diagnose depression (IDD): A self-report scale to diagnose major depressive disorder. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 55, 55–59.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Zimmerman, M., Coryell, W., Corenthal, C., & Wilson, S. (1986). A self-report scale to diagnose major depressive disorder. Archives of General Psychiatry, 43, 1076–1081.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  43. Zimmerman, M., Coryell, W., Wilson, S., & Corenthal, C. (1986). Evaluation of symptoms of major depressive disorder: Self-report vs. clinicians ratings. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 174, 150–153.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Patricia A. Rivera
    • 1
    Email author
  • Timothy R. Elliott
    • 1
  • Jack W. Berry
    • 1
  • Richard M. Shewchuk
    • 2
  • Kimberly D. Oswald
    • 1
  • Joan Grant
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Alabama-BirminghamBirminghamUSA
  2. 2.BirminghamUSA
  3. 3.BirminghamUSA

Personalised recommendations