Evaluating and assessing someone’s need for care is a critical component of acting as an effective and objective caregiver. However, according to a new study led by S. Jeffrey Bailey of the Department of Psychology at the University of New Brunswick Saint John in Canada, the attachment style of a caregiver can influence how they respond to a patient’s needs. “The Social Communication Model of Pain raised the possibility that characteristics of those observing pain may also inﬂuence evaluations of individuals experiencing pain and that these evaluations could inﬂuence caregiving responses directed to those in pain,” said Bailey. “Attachment theory is a well-supported biopsychosocial framework for investigating reactions to others in distress that holds promise for developing a more complete understanding of factors involved in evaluating individuals experiencing pain.”
Bailey developed his study on the premise that caregivers would judge how a patient responded to their pain based on their own avoidant or anxious attachment styles. Bailey asked 267 graduate students to read and evaluate two pain vignettes, one that demonstrated catastrophic coping, the other that demonstrated distractive coping. “Similar to past research, the catastrophizing vignette received more negative ratings than the distraction vignette (e.g., greater disability level), and female participants provided more positive ratings than male participants (e.g., greater deservingness of support),” said Bailey. “While the attachment variables were unrelated to some dependent variables, consistent with the main hypothesis, attachment avoidance was associated with lower ratings of perceived deservingness of support and desirability as a friend.” He added, “The signiﬁcant ﬁnding regarding vignette type and the psychological factors variable raises the possibility that patients presenting with a high level of pain catastrophizing would be particularly likely to receive a referral to a mental health specialist.” Although Bailey noted that this could be beneficial, he also pointed out that it may prevent a caregiver from recognizing the need for other types of medical care. Bailey said, “The current ﬁndings were consistent with the general proposition of the Social Communication Model of Pain that characteristics of those experiencing and those observing pain both inﬂuence pain-related judgments.”
Bailey, S. J., McWilliams, L. A., & Dick, B. D. (2011, November 21). Expanding the Social Communication Model of Pain: Are Adult Attachment Characteristics Associated With Observers’ Pain-Related Evaluations? Rehabilitation Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0026237
© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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