Sequential and Base Rate Analysis of Emotional Validation and Invalidation in Chronic Pain Couples: Patient Gender Matters


      The purpose of this study was to examine the extent to which communication patterns that foster or hinder intimacy and emotion regulation in couples were related to pain, marital satisfaction, and depression in 78 chronic pain couples attempting to problem-solve an area of disagreement in their marriage. Sequences and base rates of validation and invalidation communication patterns were almost uniformly unrelated to adjustment variables unless patient gender was taken into account. Male patient couples’ reciprocal invalidation was related to worse pain, but this was not found in female patient couples. In addition, spouses’ validation was related to poorer patient pain and marital satisfaction, but only in couples with a male patient. It was not only the presence or absence of invalidation and validation that mattered (base rates), but the context and timing of these events (sequences) that affected patients’ adjustment. This research demonstrates that sequences of interaction behaviors that foster and hinder emotion regulation should be attended to when assessing and treating pain patients and their spouses.


      This article presents analyses of both sequences and base rates of chronic pain couples’ communication patterns, focusing on validation and invalidation. These results may potentially improve psychosocial treatments for these couples, by addressing sequential interactions of intimacy and empathy.

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