This article introduces the concepts of parental meta-emotion, which refers to parents' emotions about their own and their children's emotions, and meta-emotion philosophy, which refers to an organized set of thoughts and metaphors, a philosophy, and an approach to one's own emotions and to one's children's emotions. In the context of a longitudinal study beginning when the children were 5 years old and ending when they were 8 years old, a theoretical model and path analytic models are presented that relate parental meta-emotion philosophy to parenting, to child regulatory physiology, to emotion regulation abilities in the child, and to child outcomes in middle childhood.
A study with 130 newlywed couples was designed to explore rnarital interaction processes that are predictive of divorce or marital stability, processes that hrtlier discrin~irzate between happily and urzhappily married stable couples. We explore seven types of process models: (a) anger as a clarzgerou.~ emotion, (b) active listening, (c) negative affect reciprocity, (d) negative start-up by the wge, (e) de-e.scalation, (fi positive affect models, and (g) physiological soothing of the male. Support wa.s not ,found,for the rnodels of anger as a dangerous ernotiorz, active listerzing, or negative affect reciprocity. Support was ,found for n~odels of the husbarzd'.~ rejecting his wife's irzfluence, negative start-up by the wge, a lack of de-escalation of low intensity negative wge aflect by the husband, or a lack of de-escalation of high interz.sity hu.sband negative affect by the wife, and a lack ofphysiological .soothing of the male, all predicting divorce. Support was found for a contingent po.sitive affect model and,for balance n~odels (i.e., ratio models) of positive-to-rzegative affect predicting satisfaction arnong .stable coup1e.s. Divorce and stabilih were predicted with 83% accuracy and sati.Ffaction with 80% accuracy.
Two longitudinal studies of marital interaction were conducted using observational coding of couples attempting to resolve a high-conflict issue. We found that a different pattern of results predicts concurrent marital satisfaction than predicts change in marital satisfaction over 3 years. Results suggest that some marital interaction patterns, such as disagreement and anger exchanges, which have usually been considered harmful to a marriage, may not be harmful in the long run. These patterns were found to relate to unhappiness and negative interaction at home concurrently, but they were predictive of improvement in marital satisfaction longitudinally. However; three interaction patterns were identified as dysfunctional in terms of longitudinal deterioration: defensiveness (which includes whining), stubborness, and withdrawal from interaction. Hypotheses about gender differences in roles for the maintenance of marital satisfaction are presented.Perhaps the oldest question in the research literature on marriage is, What distinguishes a happy marriage from one that is unhappy (Terman, Buttenweiser, Ferguson, Johnson, & Wilson, 1938)? To this we add the related longitudinal question, What distinguishes a marriage that will become more satisfying over time from one that will become less satisfying over time? At first glance, it might seem that the same set of features will provide the answer to both the contemporary and the longitudinal questions, but the possibility of different answers becomes quite strong on further consideration: For example, behaviors that are functional for "keeping the peace" in the present may leave unresolved critical areas of conflict that might undermine the relationship over time.We examined these questions by using the microanalytic observation of behavior. Although research on marriage has been conducted since the 1930s, most of the early work relied exclusively on self-report and interview methods. The legacy of this early work was a number of good self-report measures of marital satisfaction with excellent psychometric properties of construct validity and discriminant validity as well as moderate
Thirty married couples were studied during naturalistic interactions to determine the extent to which variation in marital satisfaction could be accounted for by physiological and affective patterns between and within spouses. The authors hypothesized that (a) compared to nondistressed couples' interactions, distressed couples' interactions would show greater physiological interrelatedness or "linkage," more negative affect, and more reciprocity of negative affect and (b) these differences would be more pronounced when the interaction was high in conflict (discussing a marital problem) as opposed to low in conflict (discussing the events of the day). Heart rate, skin conductance, pulse transmission time, and somatic activity from both spouses were analyzed using bivariate time-series techniques to derive a measure of physiological linkage. Self-report affective data (obtained using a video-recall procedure) were analyzed using sequential analyses to derive a measure of affect reciprocity. The hypotheses were strongly supported; 60% of the variance in marital satisfaction was accounted for using measures of physiological linkage alone. Additional nonredundant variance was accounted for by the other physiological and affective measures.
Seventy-three married couples were studied in 1983 and 1987. To identify marital processes associated with dissolution, a balance theory of marriage was used to generate 1 variable for dividing couples into regulated and nonregulated groups. For studying the precursors of divorce, a "cascade" model of marital dissolution, which forms a Guttman-like scale, received preliminary support. Compared with regulated couples, nonregulated couples had (a) marital problems rated as more severe (Time 1); (b) lower marital satisfaction (Time 1 and Time 2); (c) poorer health (Time 2); (d) smaller finger pulse amplitudes (wives); (e) more negative ratings for interactions; (f) more negative emotional expression; (g) less positive emotional expression; (h) more stubbornness and withdrawal from interaction; (i) greater defensiveness; and (j) greater risk for marital dissolution (lower marital satisfaction and higher incidence of consideration of dissolution and of actual separation).
In exploring the emotional climate oflong-term marriages, this study used an observational coding system to identify specific emotional behaviors expressed by middle-aged and older spouses during discussions of a marital problem. One hundred and fifty-six couples differing in age and marital satisfaction were studied. Emotional behaviors expressed by couples differed as a function of age, gender, and marital satisfaction. In older couples, the resolution of conflict was less emotionally negative and more affectionate than in middle-aged marriages. Differences between husbands and wives and between happy and unhappy marriages were also found. Wives were more affectively negative than husbands, whereas husbands were more defensive than wives, and unhappy marriages involved greater exchange of negative affect than happy marriages. We had two primary goals in this research. The first was to explore differences in emotional expression in intimate relationships in middle-aged and older marriages. The second was to test the generalizability to middle-aged and older couples of findings from earlier research investigating the influence of gender and marital satisfaction on emotional interaction in young married couples. The study was based on the analysis of videotaped interactions of happy and unhappy couples discussing conflicts in their relationships (see also Levenson, Carstensen, & Gottman, 1993). By pursuing our research questions in both happy and unhappy marriages, we were able to examine the pervasiveness of age and gender differences across these very different types of couples. In the following sections, we elaborate our rationale and hypotheses for the research. Emotion and Aging Early theories of old age depicted emotion as dampened, rigid, and flat (Banham, 1951; Looft, 1972). Yet, a growing body of empirical evidence is painting quite a different picture. Findings from several laboratories suggest age-related improvement in the control of emotion (Lawton, Kleban, Rajagopal, & Dean, 1992) and emotional understanding (Labouvie-Vief &
This study examined the relationships among physiological responses during marital conflict, aggressive behavior, and violence in battering couples. As an index of physiological response, the authors used the male batterer's heart rate reactivity, assessed as the change from an eyes-closed baseline to the first 5 min of their marital conflict interaction. During marital interaction, violent husbands who lowered their heart rates below baseline levels were more verbally aggressive toward their wives. Wives responded to these men with anger, sadness, and defensiveness. The husbands were classified as Type 1 batterers. When compared to the remaining violent husbands (classified as Type 2 batterers), Type 1 men were also more violent toward others (friends, strangers, coworkers, and bosses), had more elevated scales reflecting antisocial behavior and sadistic aggression, and were lower on dependency than Type 2 men. The 2-year followup revealed a separation-divorce rate of 0 for marriages involving Type 1 men and a divorce rate of 21.5% for marriages involving Type 2 men.The domestic assault of women in the United States has become a problem of widespread proportions. For example, each year at least 1.6 million wives in the United States are severely
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