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5 The Couples Emotion Rating Form

5 The Couples Emotion Rating Form - Psychological...

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The Couples Emotion Rating Form: Psychometric Properties and Theoretical Associations Keith Sanford Baylor University The Couples Emotion Rating Form assesses 3 types of negative emotion that are salient during times of relationship conflict. Hard emotion includes feeling angry and aggravated, soft emotion includes feeling hurt and sad, and flat emotion includes feeling bored and indifferent. In Study 1, scales measuring hard and soft emotion were validated by observation of 82 married couples in a series of conflict conversa- tions. Self-report ratings for each emotion corresponded with observer ratings of the same emotion, and the emotion scales produced expected correlations with negative affect. In Study 2, a measure of flat emotion was added to the instrument, and 1,239 married people completed questionnaires. The rating form fit an expected 3-dimensional factor structure, and each scale correlated with a set of theoretically linked constructs. Hard emotion was associated with power assertion, pursuit of self-centered goals, and negative communication. Soft emotion was associated with expressions of vulnerability, pursuit of prosocial goals, and positive communication. Flat emotion was distinct from other emotions in being associated with withdrawal. Keywords: marriage, marital, couples, emotion, interpersonal conflict In research and clinical work with couples, it may be useful to assess two types of negative emotion that are commonly experi- enced and expressed during times of relationship conflict: hard emotion and soft emotion . Hard emotion includes feelings of anger and other negative emotions associated with asserting power and control, whereas soft emotion includes feelings of sadness, hurt, and other negative emotions associated with experiencing or ex- pressing vulnerability (Dimidjian, Martell, & Christensen, 2002; Jacobson & Christensen, 1996). These two types of emotion can be described within the framework of Buck’s (1999) developmental– interactionist theory of emotion, which makes a distinction be- tween selfish emotion and prosocial emotion. Hard emotion is a “selfish” emotion, associated with self- preservation, conflict, competition, and fighting. It includes anger, which is characterized by blaming another for causing harm and by a corresponding action tendency to remove the source of harm (Smith & Lazarus, 1990). Presumably, hard emotion is associated with asserting power and pursuing self-focused objectives regard- less of any consequences such behavior might have on interper- sonal relationships (Sanford, 2007). In contrast, soft emotion, such as feeling sad or hurt, is a “prosocial” emotion associated with attachment, cooperation, and preserving interpersonal relation- ships. For example, the expression of sadness often indicates a need for social support (Clark, Pataki, & Carver, 1996), and sadness is most likely to be expressed in the context of a close relationship (Clark & Brissette, 2003). Similarly, feeling hurt reflects an underlying core concern for a relationship, and it is
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