Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of Psychology


Clinical Psychology

Content Description

1 online resource (iii, viii, 194 pages) : illustrations.

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Julia Hormes

Committee Members

Drew Anderson, James Boswell


altruism, dyadic adjustment, Multiple sclerosis, posttraumatic stress, social support, spousal/partner caregivers, Caregivers, Post-traumatic stress disorder

Subject Categories

Clinical Psychology


Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a debilitating, unpredictable, chronic illness for which many diagnosed individuals are cared for by their spouses or partners (e.g., McKeown, Porter-Armstrong, & Baxter, 2003). These MS spousal/partner caregivers are especially vulnerable to the deleterious outcomes of caregiving (e.g., Buhse, 2008; Corry & While, 2009). The present research examined hypothesized protective psychosocial factors and the impact of trauma in these unique caregivers through two cross-sectional studies (n=93 and n=62). Findings from Study One demonstrate that lower caregiver burden and higher dyadic adjustment were associated with improved caregiver mental health outcomes (Chapter 1). Study One also shows that reducing caregiver burden, increasing received social support, and giving social support by engaging in MS-related volunteer work were associated with improved caregiver outcomes (Chapter 2). Findings furthermore demonstrate that higher levels of altruism buffered against the negative effects of caregiver burden on general mental and physical health. Altruism also protected against negative effects of caregiver burden on satisfaction with life, but this effect was only detectable at low levels of caregiver burden. Study Two demonstrates that MS spousal/partner caregivers are at higher risk for PTSD and subclinical posttraumatic stress symptoms than other caregivers and than the general population (Chapter 3). Results suggest that MS spousal/partner caregivers should be screened for PTSD and that prevention and intervention efforts should target reducing caregiver burden, increasing dyadic adjustment, increasing received social support, and encouraging caregivers to engage in MS-related volunteer activities.