Implicit and explicit communal coping in couples with recently diagnosed type 2 diabetes

Vicki S. Helgeson, Brittany Jakubiak, Howard Seltman, Leslie Hausmann, Mary Korytkowski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


When an individual in a close relationship is diagnosed with a chronic illness, coping can be the responsibility of the patient or couple members can cope communally. Communal coping reflects a shared appraisal of a stressor (our problem instead of my problem) and collaborative efforts to address the stressor. The current study examined whether patients’ and partners’ communal coping levels were associated with relational and health functioning among 70 couples in which one member was recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. We assessed explicit communal coping with self-reported “inclusion of the other in the self” in regard to diabetes management and implicit communal coping with first-person plural pronoun usage during a diabetes discussion. We also assessed patient reports of support received from partners, patient and partner psychological distress, and patient self-care behavior. Results showed that patient explicit communal coping was related to better patient relationship quality and greater support receipt from partners. Patient and partner explicit communal coping also were related to reduced partner distress but not patient distress. Instead, partner implicit communal coping was related to reduced patient distress. Most noteworthy, partner implicit communal coping was related to better patient self-care behavior. These results suggest that communal coping may be beneficial for both relationships and health but that the effects of explicit measures differ from those of implicit measures. Patients might benefit especially from partner communal coping efforts that are less obvious.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1099-1121
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Social and Personal Relationships
Issue number7
StatePublished - Nov 1 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Chronic illness
  • communal coping
  • couples
  • pronoun
  • support

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Communication
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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