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
In light of a literature review identifying severe difficulties of interpretation attaching to previous prominent work on blue-collar marriages and on unhappy marriages, the present paper advances some new approaches to these relationships. The study assessed the effects of marital happiness (happy, unhappy), occupational status (blue-collar, white-collar), and communication orientation (high, low), on the frequency of negative affect and negative affect reciprocity during problem-solving in the home, without any observers present. The results indicated that the overall frequency of negative affect was influenced by marital happiness for both husbands and wives, occupational status for husbands, and the interaction of marital happiness with occupational status for wives; negative affect reciprocity was influenced only by marital happiness and not occupational status; and the empirical relationship between negative affect reciprocity and marital happiness was stronger for high communication oriented couples than low communication oriented couples. Implications of the above findings for the generality of current taxonomies of marital interaction and theories about blue-collar marriages are discussed.
This reply to Woody and Costanzo's (1990) critique responds on both methodological and substantive grounds. The methodological grounds are that Woody and Costanzo misrepresented the issues in deciding whether to use change scores, partial correlations, or regression analyses of residuals. Regression toward the mean is misunderstood in their comment with respect to the issue of extreme groups. Furthermore, the problems they point out with the correlation of Time 1 social behavior with change scores in marital satisfaction remain intact with the part and partial correlations if the test-retest correlations are high. Five alternative statistics are discussed in this reply. Each statistic may have its own problems, but they tend to be equivalent if the test-retest correlation is high. Substantively, as suggested in our paper (Gottman & Krokoff, 1989), the analyses presented are robust to employing partial correlations, controlling Time 1 marital satisfaction.
The present study evaluated a three-stage procedure for recruiting representative samples for marital interaction research: (1) random telephone survey, (2) direct mailings and (3) informational meetings in the home. To appeal to a wide range of couples, participants were compensated monetarily instead of with communication counselling. Relatively high rates of co-operation were obtained at each recruitment stage. Furthermore, the data contained little evidence for the differential drop-out of couples after the telephone survey in terms of marital happiness, socio-economic status, age, premarital acquaintance length, marital length, family size and children in various stages of rearing. A significant differential drop-out of older couples from long-term marriages in the second stage added only little bias to the final sample ( n = 120). Overall, the sample was more representative of the US general population than past studies on these and other dimensions. The present recruitment method represents a promising approach for researchers interested in assessing the generality of current marital assessment and therapy techniques.
The present study examines the different ways in which couples use humor to deal with problems when they also are experiencing troubles at work. A review of psychological research on humor and sociological studies on blue-collar marriage suggests two models for predicting the above relationship. The companionship model predicts that job distress relates to less sharing of laughter and humor. The coping model predicts that job distress is associated with the couple using more humor to deal with negative marital affect. The above models are tested in a sample of fifty-two married couples (balanced for social class) who were videotaped while trying to resolve a troublesome issue of recurring disagreement. They also completed questionnaires measuring job distress, companionship and conflict avoidance. The observational and self-report data converge in showing that the companionship model is more applicable to white-collar husbands than to blue-collar husbands, and this seems to be related to the difference in job distress between the two groups. On the other hand, the coping model is more applicable to blue-collar husbands and wives. Finally, both models are more applicable to blue-collar wives than white-collar wives, and this may be due to differences in work status (paid labor vs housework) and freedom for emotional expression.
Recent studies have established an empirical relationship between the husband's level of emotional involvement and various indices of intrapersonal and interpersonal functioning within the family context. Despite the risks attendant to families of emotionally withdrawn husbands, these husbands may be less likely to participate in research. The present study explored this hypothesis. A three-step recruitment procedure based on random sampling techniques, which focused on first securing the interest of wives, was used to recruit couples for a multimethod study on marriage. If a husband did not join his wife in the study, the wife was asked to complete a set of questionnaires. The same set of questionnaires was completed by wives whose husbands agreed to participate with them. In comparison to participant husbands, nonparticipant husbands were rated by their wives as being less emotionally involved in their marriages (as measured by the husband's expressiveness/responsiveness). This effect did not generalize to the husband's instrumental involvement in the marriage (i.e., housework participation) or to other areas of distress, nor did it reflect differences in the wife's own expectations for emotional involvement. The possible underrepresentation of emotionally withdrawn husbands in research may limit our ability to study, as well as help, this at-risk population.
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