Subjective Caregiver Burden and Caregiver Satisfaction: The Role of Partner Relationship Quality and Reciprocity

Published:March 09, 2017DOI:


      • Good relationship quality relates to lower subjective caregiver burden.
      • Good relationship quality enhances satisfaction with the caregiver role.
      • Interventions for caregiving partners may target relationship quality.



      To explore the effect of relationship quality and reciprocity in partnerships on subjective caregiver burden and caregiver satisfaction in partners of persons with a severe physical disability (spinal cord injury).


      Cross-sectional, observational.


      Community setting.


      Caregiving partners of persons with spinal cord injury (N=118).


      Not applicable.

      Main Outcome Measures

      Subjective caregiver burden measured by the Zarit Burden Interview (short form) and caregiver satisfaction measured by a single item on feelings of satisfaction resulting from the caregiver role.


      Caregiving partners who rated their relationship quality as high encountered less subjective caregiver burden (β=−1.10; 95% confidence interval [CI], −1.47 to −0.72; P<.001) and more caregiver satisfaction (odds ratio [OR], 1.18; 95% CI, 1.01–1.45; P=.049). These associations persisted even after controlling for sociodemographic characteristics, lesion severity of the care receiver, and objective caregiver burden. Partners who indicated high reciprocity in their relationship to the care receiver indicated less subjective caregiver burden and more caregiver satisfaction when relationship quality was excluded from the final models; however, the effect of reciprocity on subjective burden (β=−.38; 95% CI, −3.71 to 2.95; P=.82) and caregiver satisfaction (OR, 1.21; 95% CI, 0.28–5.22; P=.80) disappeared when including relationship quality.


      Results highlight the importance of relationship quality as a target for couple interventions aimed at reducing subjective caregiver burden and increasing satisfaction in the caregiving role.


      List of abbreviations:

      ADL (activities of daily living), IADL (instrumental activities of daily living), OR (odds ratio), SCI (spinal cord injury)
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