marital satisfaction - Journal of Consultiog and Clinical...

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Journal of Consultiog and Clinical Psychology Copyright 1989 by the American Psychological Association, Inc. 1989, Vol. 57, No. 1, 47-52 0022-006X/89/$00.75 Marital Interaction and Satisfaction: A Longitudinal View John M. Gottman University of Washington, Seattle Lowell J. KrokotT Department of Clinical and Family Studies University of Wisconsin--Madison 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 con- current 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 usu- ally 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 mar- riage 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 ques- tions, 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 un- resolved critical areas of conflict that might undermine the rela- tionship over time. We examined these questions by using the microanalytic ob- servation of behavior. Although research on marriage has been conducted since the 1930s, most of the early work relied exclu- sively on self-report and interview methods. The legacy of this early work was a number of good self-report measures of mari- tal satisfaction with excellent psychometric properties of con- struct validity and discriminant validity as well as moderate lev- els of predictive validity (see Burgess, Locke, & Thomes, 1971). Systematic observational research on marital interaction began in the 1970s (Weiss, Hops, & Patterson, 1973), and in the follow- ing years, various observational coding systems have appeared in the literature (for a review see Filsinger, 1983). This work has contributed to the development of a model of marital distress that focuses on communication-skills deficits in conflict resolu- tion. We used a convergence of two major systems, the Marital Interaction Coding System (MICS; Weiss & Summers, 1983)
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marital satisfaction - Journal of Consultiog and Clinical...

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