BACKGROUND: Although carers' reactions to schizophrenic illness in a close family member may have important implications for the patient and for themselves, little is known of factors that influence the way carers respond. In the area of physical health problems, people's models of their illness or illness representations have been found to be related to the ways they react and cope with their illness. This study examines the use of a modified form of the Illness Perception Questionnaire (IPQ) to investigate illness models in a sample of carers of schizophrenia patients.
METHODS: Forty-seven carers participated. The psychometric properties of the modified IPQ were examined, and a number of carer and patient outcomes were investigated in relation to carer scores on the illness identity, consequences, control-cure and timeline subscales of the modified IPQ. These outcomes included measures of carer distress and burden, expressed emotion dimensions, and patient functioning.
RESULTS: The modified IPQ was found to be a reliable measure of carers' perceptions of schizophrenia. Carer functioning, the patient-carer relationship and patient illness characteristics were associated with different dimensions of illness perceptions.
CONCLUSIONS: The findings support the proposal that carer cognitive representations of the illness may have important implications for both carer and patient outcomes in schizophrenia.