Is a dyadic stressor experienced as equally distressing by both partners? The case of perceived fertility problems

Julia McQuillan, Arthur L. Greil, Anna Rybińska, Stacy Tiemeyer, Karina M. Shreffler, Colleen Warner Colaner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Using data from a population survey, this article explores whether perceptions of having a fertility problem among 926 U.S. couples in heterosexual relationships (women aged 25–45 and male partners) are associated with distress. Most couples did not perceive a fertility problem (58%). In almost a third (30%) of the couples, only women perceived a fertility problem; in 4%, only the men; and in nearly a fifth (19%), both perceived a problem. Adjusted for characteristics associated with fertility problems and depressive symptoms, those who perceived a problem exhibited significantly more depressive symptoms than those who did not. Fertility problems are sometimes experienced as individual because in some couples only one partner perceives a problem or has higher distress in response to their own rather than to their partners’ perceived problems. For women, fertility problems are experienced as a couple phenomenon because women were more distressed when both partners perceive a problem. The perception of fertility problems is gendered in that women were more likely to perceive a problem than men. Furthermore, men are most distressed when they perceive a problem and their partner does not.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)342-362
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Social and Personal Relationships
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2021


  • Couples
  • depressive symptoms
  • infertility
  • life course
  • multilevel-models
  • stress process
  • survey research

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Communication
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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