Date of Award

10-5-2017

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

M.A.

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Cramer, Kenneth

Keywords

Caregivers, Personality disorders, Stress Process Model

Abstract

The present study investigated a variety of stressors experienced by caregivers of people with personality disorders, how these stressors relate to each other and psychological distress, and caregivers’ intentions to seek help, using the Stress Process Model (Pearlin, Mullan, Semple, & Skaff, 1990). Caregivers (N = 106) completed an online survey; 85% of the sample supported a loved one with borderline personality disorder and over 90% of the care-receivers had additional acute psychopathology. Partial Least Squares Path Modelling revealed that caregivers who were male, younger, or residing with their loved one were more likely to experience stressors. Salient primary stressors, or those arising from the needs of the care-receiver, included the caregivers’ worry and care-receivers’ level of instrumental demands and interpersonal problems. Important secondary stressors, or impacted areas of the caregivers’ lives outside the caregiving relationship, included strains in the caregivers’ schedules, family relationships, and health, as well as reduced mastery and caregiving esteem. The model supported a trajectory through which demographic characteristics and experiences of stigma and problems with services increase the likelihood of experiencing primary stressors, which, in turn, are predictive of higher secondary stressors. Higher levels of stressors increase the risk of experiencing psychological distress. Additional preliminary analyses revealed that caregivers reported higher intentions to seek emotional and informational support, rather than instrumental, as well as a preference for formal, rather than informal, informational support. The present study has implications for understanding the broader impact of personality disorders, developing strategies to better support caregivers, and clarifying the way caregiving stressors give rise to outcomes such as psychological distress.

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