Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




The present study was designed primarily to study the relationship between modes of coping used by wives of alcoholics and the outcome of their husbands' drinking behavior. Previous research had provided some understanding of the wife's personality, but little controlled research had studied the relationship between the wife's behavior and her husband's drinking. Orford and his associates (Orford and Guthrie, 1968, Orford, et aj_., 1975) provided the initial stimulus for this study by demonstrating that relatively consistent modes of coping could be identified.

However, the Orford, et a]_. study found a minimal relationship between modes of coping and the eventual outcome of the husband's drinking. Based on other studies (e.g., Smith, 1969, Rae, 1972, Wright, 1975), which indicated that there is a relationship between the husband's outcome and certain aspects of the wife's behavior, the present study hypothesized specific weaknesses in the Orford, et aj_. (1975) study which precluded finding a relationship. Using previous research (e.g., Jackson, 1954, Kogan and Jackson, 1961, 1963, Lemert, 1960, Bailey, 1967) additional (predictor) variables (stage of the wife's reactive pattern, the wife's perception of her husband, whether there was a drinking problem before marriage, and the wife's educational level) were hypothesized to interact with modes of coping. Hypotheses were formulated concerning the relationship of drinking outcome and the modes of coping and other predictor variables.

A questionnaire containing subscales for each of the variables hypothesized to be relevant was administered to wives of alcoholics. In addition, four measures of sobriety were administered to both the wives and their husbands. A general regression design was used to analyze the relationship between drinking outcome and the predictor variables.

Two groups of wives (HR and HNR), identified on the basis of whether the husband completed his questionnaire, were found to differ significantly on all of the measures of sobriety. Subsequent analyses were performed separately on the two groups.

A factor analysis of the modes of coping questionnaire revealed nine identifiable factors, six of which corresponded closely with the factors in the Orford, et al_. (1975) study. Thus, specific, relatively stable modes of coping were identified.

The data provided no support for Jackson's (1954) stage theory. Possible reasons for this failure were discussed.

The results provided support for the general hypothesis that the styles of coping used by wives of alcoholics in response to their husbands' drinking are related to the drinking outcome. In both groups (HR and HNR) certain behaviors were more highly correlated with eventual sobriety than other behaviors. In both groups the crucial variable seemed to be the safety of the atmosphere between the husband and wife. Those modes of coping which communicated the wife's feelings of distress and frustration to the drinking husband in a way which was safe for him were the most highly related to his attainment of sobriety.

There were a number of interactions between modes of coping and the wife's perception of her husband. Again threat seemed to be the important variable. Responses which might have threatened an insecure husband, and thus showed a low correlation with eventual sobriety, might have been significantly correlated with sobriety when the husband was seen to be relatively secure and well adjusted.

Limitations of the present study were discussed and future research, particularly regarding the cause-effect relationship between the wife's behavior and the husband's drinking, was suggested.