Date of Award

Summer 1995

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Urban Services--Health Services

Committee Director

George Maihafer

Committee Member

Laurel Garzon

Committee Member

Barbara Winstead

Committee Member

Clare Houseman

Committee Member

Lindsay Rettie


A correlational research design utilizing a cross-sectional survey methodology was used to investigate the association between perceived family support and psychological well-being in infertile couples. Family stress theory and the construct of boundary ambiguity were conceptual frameworks applied to the developmental family life cycle. Respondents were 35 married infertile couples with primary infertility recruited from a private For-profit infertility clinic located in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Responses on the Moos and Moos (1984) Family Environment Scale and from the SCL-90-R developed by Derogatis (1977) measured perceived family support and psychological distress respectively. Major findings indicated that infertile couples rated their families of origin lower on perceived support when compared to normative data reported by Moos and Moos (1994). A low to moderate nonsignificant association was found between perceived family support and psychological distress however the correlation was positive indicating that higher family support is correlated with more psychological distress. This result did not support main effects or buffering hypotheses which propose family support as a modifier of stress. Gender differences did not exist between correlations of perceived family support and psychological distress, however gender differences were noted on the correlations of specific subscales of both measures. Age, income and size of family predicted family support. None of the sociodemographic variables predicted psychological distress. Finally, couples in Stage 1 of medical investigation had a moderate correlation between perceived family support and psychological distress, however, correlation coefficients for each stage of medical investigation were not significantly different. Results may indicate a need for a reconceptualization of the role that the expression of negative feelings may play in the psychological coping of infertile couples. Perhaps the expression of psychological distress is a healthy sign of coping. The trend toward higher perceived family support with higher psychological distress may signal a need for families to serve as containers for psychological distress, thus assisting infertile couples in the coping process.