Families experiencing a chronic illness: The effects of a multiple family psychoeducational group on levels of family functioning and stress

Penelope Goldmuntz (1990)

The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effect of a multifamily psychoeducational group on levels of family functioning and family stress in families experiencing a chronic illness. The group intervention addressed: how a chronic illness impacts on a family, issues of family identity, and how affect is expressed in the family. Specifically, common ways in which families get stuck in maladaptive coping patterns, and strategies for overcoming these patterns were explored by the group intervention. The underlying theoretical view, derived from family systems theory, was that chronic illness has a profound, often negative, impact on family life. How the family unit copes with and understands the role of an illness affects both the level of stress and the level of functioning within the family. The literature on stress coping/adaptation in families was reviewed. The study used a quasi-experimental pretest, posttest design. The selection of participants was nonrandom. The treatment group consisted of four families participating in an eight week Multiple Family Discussion Group. A control group of four families did not participate in any intervention. All families took pre- and posttests which measured levels of family functioning and stress. The hypothesis stated that family functioning in the treatment group would improve and that levels of stress would decrease as a result of the skills learned in the group. A secondary hypothesis stated that an Illness Questionnaire would provide information about family functioning which differed from that obtained by the Family Assessment Device. The hypotheses were not supported by statistical findings. In the treatment group levels of family functioning changed in an unhealthy direction. Levels of stress showed no significant change. There was a shift in the degree of dominance of the illness in family life to a less central position. In contrast to the statistical data, participant comments and clinical evaluation found that positive changes occurred in the treatment group. A suggestion for future research was that the length of the intervention should be extended. This would allow families time to consolidate and practice the skills learned in the group.