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coming home upset

coming home upset - Journal of Family Psychology 2004 Vol...

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Coming Home Upset: Gender, Marital Satisfaction, and the Daily Spillover of Workday Experience Into Couple Interactions Marc S. Schulz Bryn Mawr College Philip A. Cowan and Carolyn Pape Cowan University of California, Berkeley Robert T. Brennan Harvard University This study explored how daily changes in workday pace and end-of-the-workday mood were related to nightly variations in withdrawn and angry marital behavior. For 3 days, 82 husbands and wives from 42 couples completed questionnaires at the end of the workday and at bedtime. More negatively arousing workdays were linked with angrier marital behavior for women and less angry and more withdrawn behavior for men. Daily changes in workday pace predicted fluctuations in women’s, but not men’s, marital behavior. Several of these workday–marital behavior connections varied by level of marital satisfaction. In contrast to the gender differences in responses to workday stress, no differences were found in typical marital behaviors. These findings suggest that gender differences are enhanced under stress. The evening interactions of couples with young children typically take place after both parents have experienced a day filled to varying degrees with working outside the home, taking care of children, and completing household chores and errands. These daily experiences are likely to set in motion a pattern of demands, stresses, and frustrations that shape men’s and women’s emotional lives and the nature of their family relationships (Larson & Richards, 1994). Surprisingly little is known about how these daytime emotional currents actually affect evening marital behaviors and whether these effects are the same for men and women. In the present research, we explored these questions using data from an intensive, short-term longitudinal study of 82 husbands and wives who are parents of young children. Our primary aim was to explore how daily changes in workday pace and end-of-the-workday mood are connected to nightly variations in withdrawn and angry marital behav- ior. By exploring the emotion spillover processes that may underlie these connections, we sought to build on and ex- tend previous research and theoretical perspectives that fo- cus on reactivity to negative emotions within marriage and the spillover of individual partners’ emotions into the mar- ital relationship (e.g., Crouter, Perry-Jenkins, Huston, & Crawford, 1989; Gottman & Levenson, 1988; Repetti, 1989). We also sought to add an important empirical per- spective to ongoing questions about gender differences in coping and behavior in intimate relationships. Although popular stereotypes and books (e.g., Gray, 1992; Tannen, 1990) suggest that there are strong and consistent differ- ences in how men and women typically behave in intimate relationships, careful reviews of relevant research conclude that gender differences are often modest in magnitude and may be present only in certain contexts (e.g., Aries, 1996; Brody, 1999). Past research suggests that gender differences
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