Adjustment to Chronic Illness and Disabilities: Theoretical Perspectives, Empirical Findings, and Unresolved Issues

Hanoch Livneh and Erin Martz

in The Oxford Handbook of Rehabilitation Psychology

Published in print July 2012 | ISBN: 9780199733989
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

Adjustment to Chronic Illness and Disabilities: Theoretical Perspectives, Empirical Findings, and Unresolved Issues

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  • Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Health Psychology



Chronic illnesses and disabilities (CID) are integral parts of life, and their likelihood of occurrence increases with one's age. The experience of CID invariably necessitates personal adaptation to both the individual's diminished functional capacities and their altered interactions with the physical and social environments. The field of psychosocial adaptation (PA) to CID has exponentially grown during the past 30 years and can be conveniently collapsed into two broad domains, namely, conceptual and empirical approaches to the study of PA to CID. The conceptual approach is mostly rooted in extensive clinical observations of individuals following the aftermath of CID onset and has led to the development of numerous theoretical frameworks of PA to CID and coping with CID. Here, we provide a review of the most influential conceptual models of PA to CID. The empirical literature is examined in this chapter by focusing on those studies that have directly sought to investigate the relationships (albeit not necessarily causal in nature) among a wide range of sociodemographic characteristics, CID-linked factors, personality attributes and coping strategies, and environmental influences (these four classes of variables are typically considered as predictors, mediators or moderators), and measures of PA to CID (the latter commonly regarded as outcomes). Due to space restrictions, our review of the empirical literature only focuses on certain types of CIDs, namely, spinal cord injuries, cancer, and multiple sclerosis. This chapter concludes with a discussion of those issues that need to be addressed by future researchers in the field of adaptation to CID.

Keywords: Psychosocial adaptation; models of adaptation; biopsychosocial; coping; engagement coping; disengagement coping; depression; anxiety; social support; perceptions of control; self-efficacy; hope; optimism; quality of life; well-being; life s

Article.  31297 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Clinical Psychology ; Health Psychology

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