The interpersonal process model of intimacy, burden and communal motivation to care in a multinational group of informal caregivers

Giulia Ferraris, Eva Bei, Chelsea Coumoundouros, Joanne Woodford, Emanuela Saita, Robbert Sanderman, Mariët Hagedoorn

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The interpersonal process model of intimacy suggests that intimacy within dyads develops when open communication from one dyad member is met with validating, understanding and caring responses from the other dyad member. Little is known about interpersonal processes between informal caregivers and care recipients in different illness contexts (i.e., coping with neurological, physical or other impairments/comorbidities) and relationship types (i.e., spouses, adult children and others), and how interpersonal processes are linked to the caregivers’ wellbeing. In this cross-sectional study, caregivers (N = 882) from nine countries reported on their open communication with care recipients, care recipients’ responsiveness, and caregivers’ wellbeing (i.e., intimacy, burden and communal motivation to care). Although caregivers of care recipients with neurological impairments and adult child caregivers reported lower mean levels of open communication and perceived responsiveness, similar mediating effects of perceived responsiveness between open communication and intimacy (effect = 0.05; CI95 = [0.04, 0.06]), burden (effect = −0.42; CI95 = [−0.49, −0.35]), and communal motivation to care (effect = 0.28; CI95 = [0.21, 0.36]) were reported across different illness contexts and relationship types. Only the negative relationship between perceived responsiveness and burden was stronger for spouses (b = −0.23, CI95 = [-0.26, −0.19]) than for adult children and others. Results suggest the interpersonal process model of intimacy may be used to identify caregivers at risk of poor wellbeing in different illness contexts and with different relationships with their care recipients. Lack of open communication and caregivers’ misperceptions of care recipients’ responsiveness may represent opportunities to intervene to enhance caregivers’ intimacy to the care recipients, communal motivation to care, and to decrease caregiver burden.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3414-3436
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Social and Personal Relationships
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2023

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© The Author(s) 2023.


  • Communication
  • burden
  • caregiver
  • communal motivation
  • intimacy
  • perceived responsiveness


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