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Date of Award


Document Type

Dissertation - Pacific Access Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)


Counseling Psychology

First Advisor

Judith Hoorn

First Committee Member

Lydia Flasher

Second Committee Member

Rachelle Hackett

Third Committee Member

Roseann Hannon

Fourth Committee Member

Mari Irvin


This study focused on the impact that multiple sclerosis (MS) has on the sexual relationship of couples who experienced the diagnosis of MS after the establishment of a sexual relationship. While it is known that this disease can disrupt sexual functioning of individuals, little is known about how MS affects the sexual relationship of couples. Couples coping with the diagnosis of a serious chronic disease like MS in one spouse are likely at particular risk for disruption of the sexual bond. Rolland's Family Systems-Illness Model (FSIM) can provide a framework for understanding the effect of a chronic illness on a couple system. Sixteen couples were interviewed using an interview protocol based on the FSIM. The couples also completed two questionnaires: the Sexual History Form (SHF) and the Disease Acceptance Scale (DAS). The results of this study indicate that these couples had a low rate of sexual activity. Degree of physical disability in the spouse with MS or the type of MS was not predictive of sexual relating. Disease acceptance did not appear to be related to the level of sexual activity in these couples or their desire for sexual activity. Sexual dysfunction had a modest negative relationship with sexual satisfaction for well spouses only. Well spouses were less satisfied with the couples' relationship than were ill spouses. Overall most of the couples in this study were coping well with the ill spouse's MS. Despite any disruption of their sexual relationship most of the couples who participated in this study viewed other stressors, such as difficulties with children, as being more influential than MS in their relationships. Differences in communication and sexual interactions between couples with a high level of conflict and those with a low level of conflict did emerge. These differences and how clinicians can treat couples who are coping with a chronic disease like MS are discussed.




9780599258341 , 0599258349

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