Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Social Work (MSW)


Social Work


Lyle S. Hallman Faculty of Social Work

First Advisor

Susan Cadell

Advisor Role

Thesis Supervisor


Little is known about the potential for positive outcomes in couples who have a child with a life-threatening illness. The current study was a secondary analysis of demographics and personal growth data of 34 couples actively caring for children with various life-threatening conditions. There were three overarching goals in this research: (a) to examine differences in Posttraumatic Growth Inventory scores (PTGI) of mothers and fathers, (b) to examine the relationship between demographic variables and PTGI scores of mothers and fathers, and (c) to measure level of congruency in couple-dyad scores and test if partners’ growth scores are predictive of one another.

Findings showed significant differences between the Total Growth scores of mothers and fathers, with mothers having significantly higher scores. Of all areas examined, interpersonal growth appears to be the most sensitive to demographic factors. A number of significant relationships were found between demographics and scores on the Relating to Others scale of mothers and fathers. Fathers’ personal growth was related to age, age of child, time since diagnosis, how well income meets needs, and importance of religion. The growth of mothers was related to community size, how well income meets needs, importance of religion, and diagnostic category of child’s condition. Congruency testing showed that couple-dyads were no more likely to report similar degrees of growth than they were to report opposite degrees of growth. However, interpersonal growth and spiritual change scores of one partner were highly predictive of those reported by his or her partner.

Implications for social workers and other professionals to recognize the potential for positive outcomes and factors that may influence personal growth in couples caring for a child with a life-threatening illness are addressed.

Convocation Year


Included in

Social Work Commons