persistent psychological morbidity, coping, stress, ICU


Objective The Intensive Care Unit (ICU) is a stressful environment for families of critically ill patients and these individuals are at risk to develop persistent psychological morbidity. Our study objective was to identify individual differences in coping with stress and information presentation preferences of respondents exposed to a simulated ICU experience.

Methods Participants were recruited from a university and two community populations. Participants completed questionnaires that measured demographic information and characteristics that may be relevant to an individual’s ICU experience. Quality of life was measured by the EQ5D, personality dimensions were examined with the abbreviated Big Five inventory, coping with stress was assessed with Brief COPE. Shared decision making preferences were assessed by the Degner Control Preferences Scale (CPS) and information seeking style was assessed with the Miller Behavioral Style Scale (MBSS). Social support was examined using an abbreviated version of the Social Relationship Index. Participants also completed a vignette-based simulated ICU experience, in which they made a surrogate decision on behalf of a loved one in the ICU.

Results Three hundred forty-three participants completed the study. Three distinct coping profiles were identified: adaptive copers, maladaptive copers, and disengaged copers. Profiles differed primarily on coping styles, personality, quality of their closest social relationship, and history of anxiety and depression. Responses to the simulated ICU decision making experience differed across profiles. Disengaged copers (15%) were more likely to elect to refuse dialysis on behalf of an adult sibling compared to adaptive copers (7%) or maladaptive copers (5%) (p = 0.03). Notably, the MBSS and the CPS did not differ by coping profile. Conclusion Distinct coping profiles are associated with differences in responses to a simulated ICU experience. Tailoring communication and support to specific coping profiles may represent an important pathway to improving ICU experience for patients and families.

Original Publication Citation

Butler JM, Hirshberg EL, Hopkins RO, Wilson EL, Orme J, Beesley SJ, Kuttler K, Brown SM. (2016). Preliminary identification of copying profiles relevant to surrogate decision making in the ICU. PLOS One, 11(11): e0166542.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



PLoS ONE 11(11)




Family, Home, and Social Sciences



University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor

Included in

Psychology Commons