BACKGROUND: Most studies examining coping with infertility use the individual as the unit of analysis. Although valuable, these studies fail to show the impact that partner coping has on individual distress. Since infertility is a shared stressor, examining the impact of partner coping is particularly relevant. METHODS: Data were based on a questionnaire in a consecutive sample of 1169 women and 1081 Danish men prior to beginning assisted reproduction treatment. Multilevel modeling using the Actor Partner Interdependence Model and follow-up analysis of variance were used to examine the couple as the unit of analysis. RESULTS: A partner's use of active-avoidance coping was related to the increased personal, marital and social distress for men and women. A woman's use of active-confronting coping was related to increased male marital distress. And a partner's use of meaning-based coping was associated with decreased marital distress in men and increased social distress in women. CONCLUSIONS: Although understudied, partner coping patterns play a key role in a partner's ability to cope with the infertility experience. Physicians and mental health providers can help couples to understand the coping strategies that lead to increased and decreased partner distress.
Keywords: Adaptation, Psychological; Adult; Cohort Studies; Female; Humans; Infertility; Interpersonal Relations; Longitudinal Studies; Male; Sex Factors; Spouses; Stress, Psychological