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Br J Health Psychol. 2010 Sep;15(Pt 3):543-59. doi: 10.1348/135910709X476972. Epub 2009 Oct 29.

The Couples' Illness Communication Scale (CICS): development and evaluation of a brief measure assessing illness-related couple communication.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK.



When one member of a couple has a chronic illness, communication about the illness is important for both patient and partner well-being. This study aimed to develop and test a brief self-report measure of illness-related couple communication.


A combination of correlations and multiple regression were used to assess the internal consistency and validity of the Couples' Illness Communication Scale (CICS).


A scale to provide insight into both patient and partner illness communication was developed. The CICS was then tested on patients with ovarian cancer (N=123) and their partners (N=101), as well as patients with early stage multiple sclerosis (MS) who had stable partnerships (N=64).


The CICS demonstrated good acceptability, internal consistency, convergent validity (correlations with general couple communication and marital adjustment), construct validity (correlations with intrusive thoughts, social/family well-being, emotional impact of the illness, and psychological distress), and test-retest reliability.


The CICS meets the majority of psychometric criteria for assessment measures in both a life-threatening illness (ovarian cancer) and a chronic progressive disease (MS). Further research is required to understand its suitability for use in other populations. Adoption of the CICS into couple-related research will improve understanding of the role of illness-related communication in adjustment to illness. Use of this short, simple tool in a clinical setting can provide a springboard for addressing difficulties with illness-related couple communication and could aid decision making for referrals to couple counselling.

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