Navigating Still Waters of Infertility: Role of Goal Features in Coping with a Thwarted Goal.

Journal Article (Journal Article)


The infertility experience is often surrounded by frustration and discouragement associated with the thwarted goal to have a child. Though research has identified commonly used strategies to cope with infertility, this study is the first to examine how different goal attributes and processes associated with the experience of infertility relate to coping strategy use and psychological distress.


Women (N = 353) recruited from online support forums reported on the nature of their goal to have a child, their psychological distress, and their use of strategies to cope with the failure to achieve that goal.


Women reported high striving toward a goal high in importance and commitment, coupled with high goal-related stress and feeling that achievement is blocked. Consistent with the notion that coping strategy use is specific to the features of the experience, no single goal attribute nor combination of attributes consistently accounted for coping strategy use, suggesting that the latter may be specific to the cognitions and processes of pursuit of the goal to have a child. With one exception, perceptions of impediment were better predictors of psychological distress than any level of perceived facilitators of goal pursuit, positing potential targets for future psychological interventions.


Understanding how women cope with infertility may require a detailed conceptualization of their goal to have a child. In the present sample, dynamic processes and coping strategies that otherwise detract from success were generally beneficial by providing alternatives to the pursuit of a thwarted goal.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Andrade, FC; Davisson, EK; Kwiatek, S; Hoyle, RH

Published Date

  • April 2022

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 29 / 2

Start / End Page

  • 188 - 198

PubMed ID

  • 34268707

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1532-7558

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1070-5503

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1007/s12529-021-10006-0


  • eng