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komm_hcr2002 - Caughlin DEMAND/WITHDRAW 49 The...

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The Demand/Withdraw Pattern of Communication as a Predictor of Marital Satisfaction Over Time Unresolved Issues and Future Directions JOHN P. CAUGHLIN University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign There is ample evidence that marital dissatisfaction is associated concurrently with demand/ withdraw, the marital pattern of communication in which one spouse nags or criticizes while the other avoids. However, the connection between demand/withdraw and changes in satis- faction is less clear. Some studies suggest that demand/withdraw is associated with low but steady marital satisfaction; other studies imply that demand/withdraw predicts declines in satisfaction; and still others indicate that demand/withdraw foreshadows increases in marital satisfaction. The current longitudinal study of married couples ( N = 46) examined the con- nection between demand/withdraw and changes in satisfaction. The results suggest that the correlation between demand/withdraw and dissatisfaction endures to some extent, but also that demand/withdraw predicts increases in wives’ satisfaction. Comparisons of the current study to previous studies of demand/withdraw imply that the association between demand/ withdraw and marital satisfaction may be more complex than heretofore assumed, suggesting that future research ought to consider whether different ways of enacting demand/withdraw vary in their impact on marriage. T here is abundant evidence that demand/withdraw communica- tion, a pattern in which one spouse avoids discussion while the other nags or complains, is associated with concurrent marital dis- satisfaction (e.g., Christensen & Heavey, 1990; Fogarty, 1976; Jacobson & Margolin, 1979; Noller, Feeney, Bonnell, & Callan, 1994). However, the connection between demand/withdraw and satisfaction over time is less John P. Caughlin (Ph.D., University of Texas at Austin, 1997) is an assistant professor in the Department of Speech Communication at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The author thanks Tamara Golish and Loreen Olson for conducting the majority of the Phase 2 interviews; Anita Vangelisti for her guidance during Phase 1 of this study and her com- ments on the manuscript; Thom Shaw, Re Re Pride Shaw, and Rhonda Sprague for their assistance with coding; Renate Houts and Daniel O’Keefe for their thoughts on the statisti- cal arguments in this paper; and Dale Brashers and John Greene for their helpful sugges- tions. Phase 1 of this study was supported by a Shell grant. Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to John P. Caughlin, Department of Speech Communication, 702 S. Wright St., #244 Lincoln Hall, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL 61801; phone: (217) 333-4340; fax: (217) 244-1598; email: [email protected] Human Communication Research, Vol. 28 No. 1, January 2002 49–85 © 2002 International Communication Association
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50 HUMAN COMMUNICATION RESEARCH / January 200 2 clear. Some research suggests that demand/withdraw, particularly when the wife demands while the husband withdraws, predicts declining mari-
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