Coping responses, relationship satisfaction, and psychological distress in male couples with serodiscordant HIV status

Clark Matthew Nichols, Fordham University


This study investigated coping responses, relationship quality, and psychological distress in gay men in HIV-serodiscordant relationships. The relationship among these variables for each individual within the couple, and the relationship between one partner's relationship satisfaction and the other partner's psychological distress were assessed. Furthermore, congruence/discrepancy between partners coping was examined to ascertain if a relationship existed between dissimilarity in coping and relationship quality and/or psychological distress. Prior research on male couples of serodiscordant HIV status is limited, and the literature on coping discrepancies within this population is virtually nonexistent. Archival data were used for this study, and study participants included 75 couples (150 individuals). The measures utilized in this study included a demographic questionnaire, the Brief Symptom Inventory, the Dyadic Adjustment Scale, the Relationship Belief Inventory, and the Responses to HIV Scale (a coping measure). Descriptive statistics were calculated for all participants. Participants reported levels of anxiety and depression that fell between those reported in a normative community sample and psychiatric outpatients requiring treatment. Depression was significantly related to lower levels of relationship satisfaction for oneself and one's partner, but relationship satisfaction did not predict psychological distress. Anxiety was also related to less relationship satisfaction for oneself but not for one's partner. In keeping with prior research, the use of avoidance and self-blame coping was associated with higher levels of anxiety and depression for both partners. Discrepant use of the coping strategies community involvement and spiritual growth, and active cognitive coping was related to lower levels of dyadic adjustment. Discrepant use of the coping strategy avoidance and self-blame was significantly correlated with negative relationship beliefs about sexual perfectionism. No significant relationship was found between partners' discrepant coping responses and levels of psychological distress in the HIV-positive and HIV-negative participants. In this study, psychological distress was independent of couples' coping discrepancies, but relationship quality was related to dissimilar use of all three coping strategies. Future research could include a measure of well-being to examine the interplay of coping, relational distress, and mental health, and intervention studies to examine coping effectiveness training and its relationship to psychological and relational distress.

Subject Area

Social psychology|Psychotherapy

Recommended Citation

Nichols, Clark Matthew, "Coping responses, relationship satisfaction, and psychological distress in male couples with serodiscordant HIV status" (2006). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3210275.