Families and Chronic Illness

Module Sections:

ABC-X Model: Hill's Original Model

Stressor (Factor a): A “life event or transition impacting upon the family unit which produces, or has the potential of producing, change in the family social system” (McCubbin & Patterson, 1983, p. 8). For the purposes of this module, the stressor will be the chronic illness.

Resistance Resources (Factor b): The family’s resources that equip them with the ability to prevent a stressor from becoming a crisis. A family’s available resources help them to manage and adapt to the demands, hardships, and changes that a stressor or crisis can create (McCubbin & Patterson, 1983). For example, with chronic illness, resources can include (McCubbin & Patterson, 1983):

  • The family’s role structure
  • The family’s collective goals
  • The family’s community or neighborhood
  • Extended family, friends, or the family’s church
  • Shared values and beliefs
  • The available social support
  • Characteristics of each individual family member
  • The family’s level of expressiveness

Perception (Factor c): McCubbin and Patterson (1983) state that, “The c factor in the ABCX Model is the definition the family makes of the seriousness of the experienced stressor. The c factor is the families subjective definition of the stressor and its hardships and how they are effected by them.” This subjective lens comes from pervious experiences, values, and beliefs. A family’s perceptive lens can make the difference between seeing a stressor as a challenge, or seeing the same stressor as a crisis. (McCubbin & Patterson, 1983)

Crisis (Factor x): In Hill’s (1949, 1958) original ABCX Model, “Crisis (the x factor) has been conceptualized as a continuous variable denoting the amount of disruptiveness, disorganization, or incapacitatedness in the family social system” (Burr, 1973, as cited in McCubbin & Patterson, 1983, p. 10). A family can prevent a crisis (factor x) from occurring if they are able to use the interplay of the following factors to their advantage:

  1. The stressor, stressor events, or hardships presented to the family [i.e., factor a]
  2. The family’s resources available to them to deal with factor a [i.e., factor b]
  3. The definition the family makes of factor a [i.e., What is the meaning they make of it?; factor c] or the way they view it
  4. The resulting stress and/or distress resulting from the combination and interplay of factors a, b, and c (McCubbin & Patterson, 1983).