Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice

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Volume 61 Issue 3 (September 1988), Pages 209-304

The relationship between marital intimacy, perceived strain and depression in spouse caregivers of dementia sufferers (pages 231-236)

This study explored the quality of marital relationship between dementia sufferers and their spouse caregivers. It assessed the quality of the relationship (level of intimacy) prior to the onset of dementia and also at the time of the study. Caregivers who experienced lower levels of marital intimacy, both currently and before the onset of dementia, were found to have higher levels of perceived strain and depression. The decline in intimacy following the onset of dementia was estimated from the difference between the levels of past and present intimacy. Caregivers who experienced a greater loss of intimacy had a higher level of depression, but did not show evidence of increased perceived strain. It is speculated that a poor premorbid relationship makes caregiving more stressful because of a greater difficulty in performing the caregiving role. In addition, it is suggested that a poor premorbid relationship or high loss of intimacy acts as a vulnerability factor, predisposing the caregiver to depression.

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