David A Sbarra

The University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona, United States

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Publications (44)90.62 Total impact

  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Poor marital quality is associated with many different indicators of poor health, including immunologic and metabolic responses that have relevance for distal disease outcomes such as diabetes. We conducted this study to evaluate whether poor marital quality was associated with the prevalence of diabetes in a population-based sample of Americans over the age of 50.
    Health psychology : official journal of the Division of Health Psychology, American Psychological Association. 08/2014; 33(8):832-40.
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    ABSTRACT: Objective: Although marital separation and divorce are associated with many negative health outcomes, few studies examine the psychophysiological mechanisms that may give rise to these outcomes. This study examined changes in resting blood pressure (BP) as a function of sleep complaints in recently divorced adults. Method: Recently separated adults (n = 138; 38 men) completed a self-report measure of sleep complaints and a resting blood pressure (BP) assessment in the laboratory at three occasions across 7.5 months. Results: Multilevel analyses revealed that although sleep complaints were not associated with concurrent BP, sleep complaints predicted significant increases in both systolic and diastolic BP at the subsequent laboratory visit. In addition, time since the separation from an ex-partner moderated the association between sleep complaints at baseline and resting systolic blood pressure (SBP) 3 months later. People who reported high sleep complaints 10 weeks or more after their separation demonstrated greater increases in SBP. Conclusions: In recently separated adults, greater sleep complaints may index increased risk for future increases in BP. This work helps pinpoint one potential mechanistic pathway linking marital separation with an important, health-relevant biological outcome. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved).
    Health psychology : official journal of the Division of Health Psychology, American Psychological Association. 07/2014;
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    SLEEP; 06/2014
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    SLEEP, Minneapolis, MN; 06/2014
  • Associated Professional Sleep Societies, Minneapolis, MN; 06/2014
  • Jonathan L Helm, David A Sbarra, Emilio Ferrer
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    ABSTRACT: Questions surrounding physiological interdependence in romantic relationships are gaining increased attention in the research literature. One specific form of interdependence, coregulation, can be defined as the bidirectional linkage of oscillating signals within optimal bounds. Conceptual and theoretical work suggests that physiological coregulation should be instantiated in romantic couples. Although these ideas are appealing, the central tenets of most coregulatory models await empirical evaluation. In the current study, we evaluate the covariation of respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) in 32 romantic couples during a series of laboratory tasks using a cross-lagged panel model. During the tasks, men's and women's RSA were associated with their partners' previous RSA responses, and this pattern was stronger for those couples with higher relationship satisfaction. The findings are discussed in terms of their implications for attachment theory, as well as the association between relationships and health. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved).
    Emotion 04/2014; · 3.88 Impact Factor
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    Arizona Association of Family and Conciliation Courts, Sedona, AZ; 01/2014
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    ABSTRACT: Military deployment affects thousands of families each year, yet little is known about its impact on nondeployed spouses (NDSs) and romantic relationships. This report examines two factors-attachment security and a communal orientation with respect to the deployment-that may be crucial to successful dyadic adjustment by the NDS. Thirty-seven female NDSs reported on their relationship satisfaction before and during their partner's deployment, and 20 also did so 2 weeks following their partner's return. Participants provided a stream-of-consciousness speech sample regarding their relationship during the deployment; linguistic coding of sample transcripts provided measures of each participant's (a) narrative coherence, hypothesized to reflect attachment security with respect to their deployed spouse; and (b) frequency of first person plural pronoun use (we-talk), hypothesized to reflect a communal orientation to coping. More frequent first person plural pronounuse-we-talk-was uniquely associated with higher relationship satisfaction during the deployment, and greater narrative coherence was uniquely associated with higher relationship satisfaction during postdeployment. Discussion centers on the value of relationship security and communal orientations in predicting how couples cope with deployment and other types of relationship stressors.
    Family Process 09/2013; 52(3):535-54. · 1.73 Impact Factor
  • Associated Professional Sleep Societies, Baltimore, MD; 06/2013
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    David A Sbarra, James A Coan
    International journal of psychophysiology: official journal of the International Organization of Psychophysiology 06/2013; 88(3):219-23. · 3.05 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Marital separation and divorce are common life events that increase risk for poor health outcomes, yet few intervention studies explore how to mitigate this increased risk. This study implemented an expressive writing (EW) intervention for adults who experienced a recent marital separation. Ninety participants (32 men) were randomly assigned to and completed one of three experimental writing tasks: traditional EW, a novel (narrative-based) type of EW, or control writing. Up to 9 months after this writing, participants who were judged to be actively engaged in a search for meaning concerning their separation reported significantly worse emotional outcomes when assigned to either EW condition relative to control writing. Within the control condition, those participants who were actively engaged in a search for meaning reported the lowest levels of separation-related disturbance. We discuss these results in terms of the factors that may limit and promote psychological recovery following marital separation.
    Clinical Psychological Science. 04/2013; 1(2):120-134.
  • Emily A. Butler, David A. Sbarra
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    ABSTRACT: Answers to questions at the interface of health, emotion, and relationships (HER) are critical for intervening in medical and social ills ranging from heart disease to aggression. The articles in this special issue report on recent research that targets the HER interface and summarize talks that were given at the 2011 mini-conference of the International Association for Relationship Research held at the University of Arizona. The articles present interdisciplinary approaches for tackling the complexity of HER processes across different relationships, levels of analysis, health domains, and methodologies. The papers report on many new findings but also highlight unanswered (and unasked) questions. In doing so, this work points to areas that are ripe for future cross-disciplinary discussion and investigation.
    Journal of Social and Personal Relationships 03/2013; 30(2):151-154. · 1.29 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Adult attachment classification is traditionally based on qualitative coding of participants' discourse about their attachment history. Word count-based analyses have proven useful for assessing emotional states from narrative. To expand the understanding of how language is used in emotion regulation processes related to attachment, the authors assess 102 college-aged adults' language on the Adult Attachment Interview (AAI). Autonomous adults use more emotion words and, in particular, negative emotion words. Preoccupied adults use more anger words. Disorganized adults use more experientially connected language and more death/dying words, but also use more second-person pronouns when discussing loss. Language use during the AAI explains variability in self-reported emotional distress above and beyond attachment classifications. Results are discussed in terms of their relevance to emotion and attachment.
    Personal Relationships 03/2013; 20(1). · 1.41 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Marital separation and divorce are associated with increased risk for early death, and the magnitude of this association rivals that of many well-established public health factors. In the case of divorce, however, the mechanisms explaining precisely why and how some people are at risk for early death remain unclear. This paper reviews what is known about the association between divorce and risk for all-cause mortality, then discusses four emerging themes in this area of research: the biological intermediaries linking divorce to pathophysiology and disease onset, moving beyond the statistical mean, focusing research on the diathesis-stress model, and studying how opportunity foreclosures may place people on a trajectory toward poor distal health outcomes. These ideas are grounded in a set of public lay commentaries about the association between divorce and death; in this way, the paper seeks to integrate current research ideas with how the general public thinks about divorce and its correlates. Although this paper focuses on divorce, many of the emerging themes are applicable to the study of psychosocial stress and health more generally. Therefore, the study of divorce and death provides a good case study for health psychology and considers new questions that can be pursued in a variety of research areas.
    Social and Personality Psychology Compass 12/2012; 6(12):905-919.
  • Associated Professional Sleep Societies, Boston, MA; 06/2012
  • David A Sbarra, Jessica L Borelli
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    ABSTRACT: Despite substantial evidence indicating that relationships shape people's self-concept, relatively little is known about how people reorganize their sense of self when relationships end and whether this varies as a function of people's beliefs about relationships. In this report, we examine the prospective association between self-report adult attachment style and self-concept recovery among 89 adults following a recent marital separation. People high in attachment avoidance are characterized by the tendency to deactivate (i.e., suppress) painful attachment-related thoughts and feelings, and, following Fagundes, Diamond, and Allen (2012), we hypothesized that highly avoidant people would show better or worse self-concept outcomes depending on their ability to successfully regulate their emotional experience during a divorce-related mental recall task. We operationalized self-regulation using respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) and found that highly avoidant people who showed RSA increases across our divorce-related mental activation task (DMAT) evidenced improvements in their self-concept over three months. In contrast, highly avoidant adults who showed RSA decreases during the DMAT showed no improvement (or a worsening) in their self-concept disruptions over the subsequent three months. These results suggest that RSA, an index of heart rate variability, may provide a window into self-regulation that has the potential to shed new light on why some people cope well or poorly following the loss of a relationship. Discussion centers on the potential mechanisms of action that explain why some people are able to successfully deactivate attachment-related thoughts and feelings whereas other people are not.
    International journal of psychophysiology: official journal of the International Organization of Psychophysiology 04/2012; · 3.05 Impact Factor
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    David A Sbarra, Hillary L Smith, Matthias R Mehl
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    ABSTRACT: Divorce is a highly stressful event, and much remains to be learned about the factors that promote psychological resilience when marriages come to an end. In this study, divorcing adults (N = 109) completed a 4-min stream-of-consciousness recording about their marital separation at an initial laboratory visit. Four judges rated the degree to which participants exhibited self-compassion (defined by self-kindness, an awareness of one's place in shared humanity, and emotional equanimity) in their recordings. Judges evidenced considerable agreement in their ratings of participants' self-compassion, and these ratings demonstrated strong predictive utility: Higher levels of self-compassion at the initial visit were associated with less divorce-related emotional intrusion into daily life at the start of the study, and this effect persisted up to 9 months later. These effects held when we accounted for a number of competing predictors. Self-compassion is a modifiable variable, and if our findings can be replicated, they may have implications for improving the lives of divorcing adults.
    Psychological Science 01/2012; 23(3):261-9. · 4.43 Impact Factor
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    Mark A Whisman, David A Sbarra
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    ABSTRACT: Building on prior research that marital functioning is associated with a variety of health outcomes, we evaluated the association between marital adjustment and a marker of inflammation in a sample of married adults between the ages of 35 and 84 years old (N = 415) from the second wave of the population-based Survey of Midlife Development in the United States (MIDUS II). Specifically, we evaluated associations between positive (i.e., partner support) and negative (i.e., partner strain) dimensions of marital adjustment and interleukin-6 (IL-6) separately for men and women, and whether these associations were moderated by age. Results indicated that (a) marital adjustment was not associated with IL-6 in men, (b) age moderated the association between marital adjustment and IL-6 in women, (c) partner support and partner strain were associated with IL-6 in younger women, and (d) partner support but not partner strain was uniquely associated with IL-6 in younger women. The associations between marital adjustment and IL-6 in younger women were significant when controlling for demographic variables, health status indicators, health behaviors, depressive symptoms, and perceived stress. These findings suggest that IL-6 may be a useful biomarker for studying health-relevant biological responses within intimate relationships, and that young women, in particular, may exhibit increased inflammation when partner support is low.
    Journal of Family Psychology 01/2012; 26(2):290-5. · 1.89 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Romantic breakups arouse fundamental questions about the self: Who am I without my partner? This study examined self‐concept reorganization and psychological well‐being over an 8‐week period in the months following a breakup. Multilevel analyses revealed that poorer self‐concept recovery preceded poorer well‐being and was associated with love for an ex‐partner, suggesting that failure to redefine the self contributes to post‐breakup distress. Psychophysiological data revealed that greater activity in the corrugator supercilia facial muscle while thinking about an ex‐partner predicted poorer self‐concept recovery and strengthened the negative association between love for an ex‐partner and self‐concept recovery. Thus, the interaction between self‐report and psychophysiological data provided information about the importance of self‐concept recovery to post‐breakup adjustment not tapped by either method alone.
    Personal Relationships 01/2012; 19(3). · 1.41 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: A defining feature of many physiological systems is their synchrony and reciprocal influence. An important challenge, however, is how to measure such features. This paper presents two new approaches for identifying synchrony between the physiological signals of individuals in dyads. The approaches are adaptations of two recently-developed techniques, depending on the nature of the physiological time series. For respiration and thoracic impedance, signals that are measured continuously, we use Empirical Mode Decomposition to extract the low-frequency components of a nonstationary signal, which carry the signal’s trend. We then compute the maximum cross-correlation between the trends of two signals within consecutive overlapping time windows of fixed width throughout each of a number of experimental tasks, and identify the proportion of large values of this measure occurring during each task. For heart rate, which is output discretely, we use a structural linear model that takes into account heteroscedastic measurement error on both series. The results of this study indicate that these methods are effective in detecting synchrony between physiological measures and can be used to examine emotional coherence in dyadic interactions.

Publication Stats

345 Citations
90.62 Total Impact Points


  • 2005–2014
    • The University of Arizona
      • Department of Psychology
      Tucson, Arizona, United States
  • 2012
    • University of Colorado at Boulder
      • Department of Psychology and Neuroscience
      Boulder, CO, United States
  • 2011–2012
    • University of California, Davis
      • Department of Psychology
      Davis, California, United States
  • 2010–2011
    • Pomona College
      • Department of Psychology
      Claremont, CA, United States
  • 2002–2005
    • University of Virginia
      • Department of Psychology
      Charlottesville, Virginia, United States