The feasibility of measuring medical-specific relationship schemas in partnered individuals with a medical condition.
Two studies were conducted to investigate how feasible it may be to measure relationship schemas that are distinct from relationship satisfaction and relevant to the experience of partnered individuals with a medical condition. Both studies involved administration of surveys to online samples of 97 and 161 partnered adults with a significant medical condition. Drawing from the literature on dyadic psychosocial interventions for couples facing a medical condition, items were developed to assess six potential medical-specific relationship schemas, which were: 1) Adapting to Physical Decline, 2) Handling Negative Thoughts and Emotions, 3) Processing Medical Information, 4) Navigating Dyadic Changes, 5) Supporting Healthy Behavior, and 6) Engaging with Medical Decisions. To the extent that these six areas represented meaningful relationship schemas, they were expected to have good factor reliability, to be distinct from relationship satisfaction and from each other, and to better predict seven health-related individual outcomes (perceived stress, perceived health, individual wellbeing, treatment benefit, treatment burden, treatment adherence, and medical decision-making satisfaction) than relationship satisfaction. Study 1 failed to support the distinctiveness of three scales and was inconclusive regarding the remaining three scales. Study 2 failed to support the remaining three scales. These results suggest that it is extremely difficult to measure medical relationship schemas that are distinct from relationship satisfaction. The fact that it is difficult to detect medically specific relationship schemas has implications for the theoretical model of dyadic interventions specific to the medical context, suggesting that the efficacy of such interventions may best be understood as resulting from changes in general relationship sentiment.