Family members of relatives with alcohol, drug and gambling problems: a set of standardized questionnaires for assessing stress, coping and strain

Abstract

Aims:
To describe a set of standard questionnaire measures for the assessment of the needs of family members of relatives with alcohol, drug or gambling problems, and to present evidence of their reliability and validity from a series of related studies.

Design:
Includes cross-sectional and repeated-measurement studies.

Setting and participants;
Family members affected by and concerned about the problem drinking or drug-taking of close relatives in treatment and non-treatment samples in the United Kingdom (white and Sikh) and Mexico City; family members of untreated heavy drinkers; and family members of problem gamblers.

Measurements Four measures derived from a stress–strain–coping–support model of alcohol, drugs and gambling problems and the family: Family Member Impact scale (FMI), Symptom Rating Test (SRT), Coping Questionnaire (CQ), and Hopefulness–Hopelessness scale (HOPE). FMI, SRT and CQ assess stress, strain and coping, respectively. The exact role of HOPE in the model remains to be determined. The support component remains unmeasured.

Findings:
Results from a number of studies support the internal reliability, discriminant and construct validity and sensitivity to change of the SRT and its two constituent scales (psychological and physical symptoms) and at least two subscales of the CQ (engaged and tolerant–inactive coping). Although showing evidence of satisfactory reliability and some evidence of discriminant validity, further work may be required on the CQ withdrawal coping subscale. Evidence suggests that the FMI is reliable and valid and may have a factor structure that will support future research (distinguishing worrying behaviour from active disturbance). HOPE is a new measure showing promising characteristics.

Conclusions;
A set of standard measures is available for helping to assess the needs of concerned and affected family members, derived from an explicit model of the family in relation to excessive drinking, drug taking or gambling. It may have a role to play in correcting the current neglect of the needs of such family members, estimated to be in the region of nearly a million adults in Britain alone.

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