Scott M Stanley

Scott M Stanley
University of Denver · Department of Psychology

About

159
Publications
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9,940
Citations
Citations since 2017
34 Research Items
4083 Citations
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20172018201920202021202220230200400600
20172018201920202021202220230200400600

Publications

Publications (159)
Article
We posit that evaluators of relationship education interventions can explore a policy relevant outcome by assessing relationship stability and conflict in a single index that is based on the literature on the effects of divorce and marital distress on children. We provide an empirical example from a randomized trial. The U.S. Administration for Chi...
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Mixed-gender couples presenting for couple therapy are at 2-3 times higher risk for physical intimate partner violence (IPV) than community couples. However, it is unclear if this elevation of relative risk is the same in the general population because relationship distress and treatment-seeking are often confounded. We used archival data from thre...
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The current study investigated changes in couple, parenting, and individual functioning following participation in Family Expectations, a relationship and parenting education program for new or expectant parents. The sample comprised 339 couples who participated in most sessions of the Family Expectations program and completed assessments at three...
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This study explores whether household income moderates the predictive association from adaptive processes (positive and negative interactions and commitment), enduring vulnerabilities (psychological distress), and stressors (financial strain) to future relationship satisfaction? Theory and research have long conceptualized socioeconomic status as a...
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Sexual activity occurs among a large portion of young adults and adolescents, including high school students. While about 40% of high school students nationwide have engaged in sexual intercourse, more information is needed about how individual characteristics may relate to larger patterns of adolescent sexual behavior. This exploratory study utili...
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The federal government, through the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), has funded community‐based relationship education programs for couples, individuals, and families, with a strong focus on serving economically disadvantaged and racially diverse families. This study evaluated the impact of a 36‐hour, workshop‐based couple relationsh...
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Objective: Relationship education programs have proven effective in promoting relationship quality and preventing divorce among married couples. However, according to theories of Environmental Sensitivity, people differ for genetic reasons in their sensitivity to environmental influences with some more affected by both negative and positive experi...
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This study tested moderated mediation-that is, whether the mechanisms of program impacts are different for different groups of people-in the Supporting Healthy Marriage (SHM) study of relationship education (RE) programs for low-income married couples. Large-scale evaluations of RE programs have yielded small effects in community settings. Understa...
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en The current study presents implementation and impact data from a cluster randomized trial of a youth relationship education curriculum. High school students (n = 1,135) were randomized at the school level to receive curricula-as-usual or a healthy relationships program delivered by facilitators who were not employed by the high schools. Program...
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This article systematically reviewed 34 rigorous evaluation studies of couple relationship education (CRE) programs from 2010 to 2019 that met the criteria for Level 1 well‐established interventions. Significant advances include reaching more diverse and disadvantaged target populations with positive intervention effects on a wider range of outcome...
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Decades of research have documented the apparent health benefits of marriage, but the dynamics of how health may change across the transition to marriage are not fully understood. In two studies, we compared being unmarried or married on several indices of mental and physical health. In Study 1, we used a national sample of 1,078 individuals in dif...
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A large body of existing research on African American relationships perpetuates a deficit model that assumes Eurocentric norms and emphasizes between-group differences (e.g., cross-racial comparisons with the majority group-European Americans). The current study examined within-group variability and the influence of culturally unique factors, Afroc...
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Associations between higher religiosity and positive marital outcomes are well documented (e.g., Mahoney et al., 1999; Olson et al., 2015), but less attention has been paid to religiosity in unmarried relationships. This study examines associations between religiosity and relationship quality in a sample of individuals in early adulthood (N = 354)...
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Relationship science contends that the quality of couples’ communication predicts relationship satisfaction over time. Most studies testing these links have examined between-person associations, yet couple dynamics are also theorized at the within-person level: For a given couple, worsened communication is presumed to predict deteriorations in futu...
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Monitoring alternative partners may be associated with engaging in behaviors that undermine relationship fidelity and/or stability. For example, paying attention to romantic alternatives has been shown to be associated with lower relationship quality. Studies have investigated the association between alternative monitoring and relationship outcomes...
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In general, a sense of understanding and connection is an important aspect of marital relationships. In the context of military couples in which a service member may have symptoms of PTSD, spouses' understanding of the nature and causes of service member PTSD symptoms may be protective for both partners' marital satisfaction. However, partners may...
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Given the powerful implications of relationship quality for health and well-being, a central mission of relationship science is explaining why some romantic relationships thrive more than others. This large-scale project used machine learning (i.e., Random Forests) to 1) quantify the extent to which relationship quality is predictable and 2) identi...
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The current study evaluates the effects of having a baby on relationship quality and stability, contrasting married and unmarried cohabiting parents (N = 179; 38% unmarried cohabiting). Participants provided several waves of data, including time points before, during, and after pregnancy. Results indicated that cohabiting parents broke up at a sign...
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Although there are studies on voting similarity in mate selection, very little research has examined party identification and relationship quality. We assessed associations between reports of personal and partner voting behavior (Democrat, Republican, or Independent) and both relationship adjustment and commitment to one's partner. We used a nation...
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The pandemic caused by the SARS‐CoV‐2 virus (Corona virus) and the associated illness, COVID‐19, has caused a level of world‐wide upheaval unlike any most people now living have seen in their lifetimes. This crisis affects people in their most important, committed, and intimate relationships. Although this crisis has damaged the health and wellbein...
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“Defining the relationship” (DTR) conversations are a topic of interest among lay people, yet have been the focus of little empirical research, leaving a gap in the psychological literature on romantic relationship development. This article presents descriptive data from two studies about the characteristics and correlates of DTR talks in adolescen...
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Relationship education is widely used to help people develop and sustain healthy romantic relationships. We first provide a review on the current state of evidence and key issues in the field, laying a foundation for suggesting specific best practices in relationship education. We focus on services provided to couples but also address the burgeonin...
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This study examines the ways in which collecting data from individuals versus couples affects the characteristics of the resulting sample in basic research studies of romantic relationships. From a nationally representative sample of 1,294 individuals in a serious romantic relationship, approximately half of whom were randomly selected to invite th...
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The current study examined trajectories of relationship confidence, defined as the belief that oneself and the partner together have the skills needed to navigate conflict and maintain a partnership into the future. This study uses data from a sample of 1,294 partnered but unmarried young adults to examine trajectories of relationship confidence ac...
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To minimize potential distractions for deployed military service members (SMs), some nondeployed romantic partners have reported engaging in protective buffering, or intentionally withholding information or concerns to protect their deployed partner. This study assessed the associations of protective buffering and psychological distress and marital...
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To shield a romantic partner from potential distress due to stressors occurring during deployment, service members (SMs) may engage in protective buffering, or withholding information or concerns from a romantic partner. This study utilized data from 54 couples collected before, during, and after a military deployment to assess whether SMs engaged...
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Couple therapy has been shown to be a meaningful way to improve couples' relationships. However, less information is known about couples' functioning prior to entering treatment in community settings, as well as how their relationship functioning changes from initiating therapy onward. This study examined 87 couples who began community-based couple...
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This study examined characteristics of individuals that are associated with being in asymmetrically committed relationships (ACRs), defined as romantic relationships in which there was a substantial difference in the commitment levels of the partners. These ACRs were studied in a national sample of unmarried, opposite-sex romantic relationships (N...
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en This study examined the within‐family and between‐family associations between fathers’ military‐related PTSD symptoms and parent ratings of children's behavioral and emotional problems. The sample included married couples (N = 419) with children composed of a civilian wife and an active‐duty husband serving in the U.S. Army. Results indicate tha...
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Long-distance communication has been frequently identified as essential to military couples trying to maintain their relationship during a deployment. Little quantitative research, however, has assessed the types of topics discussed during such communication and how those topics relate to overall relationship satisfaction. The current study draws o...
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Using data from 570 male service members and their wives, the current study investigated over-time associations between male service members’ self-report of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms and marital functioning (marital satisfaction, positive bonding, conflict behavior) as perceived by both spouses. Analyses spanned 5 time points ov...
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Although there is a large body of research addressing predictors of relationship infidelity, no study to our knowledge has specifically addressed infidelity in a previous relationship as a risk factor for infidelity in a subsequent relationship. The current study addressed risk for serial infidelity by following adult participants (N = 484) longitu...
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Extradyadic sexual involvement (ESI) is associated with negative consequences for individuals and threatens couple stability. Research on ESI in unmarried samples has been marked by methodological limitations, such as examining only mean levels of sexual satisfaction or frequency to predict later ESI as opposed to changes in various aspects of the...
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After completing a relationship education program, collecting participant evaluations of the program is common practice. These are generally used as an index of “consumer satisfaction” with the program, with implications for feasibility and quality. Rarely have these ratings been used as predictors of changes in marital quality, although such feedb...
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This study compared romantic relationships in which there was a substantial difference (>1 SD) in the commitment levels of the two partners to those with more equal levels. These asymmetrically committed relationships (ACRs) were studied in a national, longitudinal sample of unmarried, opposite-sex romantic relationships (N = 315 couples); 64.8% (n...
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This study clarifies within-family and between-family links between marital functioning and child well-being. Expanding on existing prospective research, this study tests whether changes in parents' marital functioning are associated with corresponding changes in their children's well-being, independent from associations that exist when comparing d...
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There is a high degree of overlap in the goals and strategies of couple and relationship education (CRE) and the practice of marriage and family therapy (MFT). Given these similarities, there is great potential benefit for the integration of MRE into the formal training of future MFTs. In this article, the authors focus on how CRE can complement bo...
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This study tested whether relationship education (i.e., the Prevention and Relationship Education Program; PREP) can mitigate the risk of having cohabited before making a mutual commitment to marry (i.e., "precommitment cohabitation") for marital distress and divorce. Using data from a study of PREP for married couples in the U.S. Army (N = 662 cou...
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The present study investigates the trajectory of children's exposure to interparental conflict during adolescence, its effects on adolescents' psychological adjustment, as well as the ability of a family-centered prevention program to alter this trajectory. A total of 331 African American couples with an adolescent or preadolescent child participat...
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Although most efficacious marital enrichment programs are multisession, few studies have explored whether outcomes differ according to session attendance, particularly among minority groups with lower than average participation in prevention programs. This study therefore investigates attendance levels and long-term improvements in couple functioni...
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Military spouses often have concerns regarding the impact of their communication on soldiers during deployment. However, literature is mixed regarding how communication between soldiers and spouses may impact soldiers' self-reported work functioning during deployment, suggesting the need to evaluate moderating factors. In the current study, three r...
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To help address the relationship needs of service members, there have been a number of programs offered within active duty and veteran contexts. One program, offered within the Strong Bonds portfolio delivered by Army Chaplains, is PREP for Strong Bonds (PREP = the Prevention and Relationship Education Program). PREP has a number of empirically bas...
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Fluctuations in self-reported commitment (dedication) to a romantic relationship were examined among adults in well-established, but mostly unmarried, opposite sex relationships (N = 616) over a period of 3 years, and the associations between individuals’ own dedication fluctuations and relationship outcomes at a later time point were analyzed. Gre...
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This article provides a conceptual overview of commitment uncertainty and fluctua-tions in commitment. In doing so, we distinguish commitment uncertainty from related concepts, such as ambivalence about commitment and doubt. In addition, we describe the onset and course of commitment uncertainty. Finally, we highlight several issues regarding the t...
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This study examined the effectiveness of an evidence-based, community-delivered adaptation of couple relationship education (CRE) program (specifically, The Prevention and Relationship Enhancement Program [PREP]) delivered at two Army installations. The study is a randomized controlled trial with 2 years of follow-up examining marital quality and s...
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Post-traumatic distress after military combat is a major cost of war. One under-investigated factor potentially associated with PTSD symptoms is specific beliefs about one's military service. This study examined post-deployment self-reports from 272 active-duty U.S. Army soldiers, to investigate potential associations between military-related PTSD...
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The vast numbers of military service members who have been deployed since 2001 highlights the need to better understand relationships of military couples. A unique consideration in military couples is the concept of meaningfulness of service, or the value service members and their partners place on military service in spite of the sacrifices it req...
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Depressive symptoms are related to a host of negative individual and family outcomes; therefore, it is important to establish risk factors for depressive symptoms in order to design prevention efforts. Following studies in the marital and psychiatric literatures regarding marital factors associated with depression, we tested two potential predictor...
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African American couples (n = 331) with children, 89% of whom were married, were assigned to either (a) a culturally sensitive couple- and parenting-enhancement program (ProSAAF) or (b) an information-only control condition in which couples received self-help materials. Husbands averaged 41 years of age and wives averaged 39 years. We found signifi...
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The association of service members' combat-related PTSD with partners' distress is weaker when spouses/partners believe that service members experienced more traumatic events during deployment. Also, when simultaneously examining partners' perceptions of all PTSD symptoms, perceptions of reexperiencing symptoms (the symptoms most obviously connecte...
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Theorists agree that commitment has different components, but the interaction between two fundamental aspects of commitment—dedication (interpersonal commitment) and constraint (external pressures to stay together)—has not been examined to our knowledge. The effects of the interaction between dedication and constraint on several measures of discomf...
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Using a nationally representative sample (N = 870), the present study compared long-distance romantic relationships to close-proximity romantic relationships in terms of relationship quality, commitment, and stability. Individuals in long-distance relationships generally reported higher levels of relationship quality on a number of relationship qua...
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The study presents findings from interviews of 52 divorced individuals who received the Prevention and Relationship Enhancement Program (PREP) while engaged to be married. Using both quantitative and qualitative methods, the study sought to understand participant reasons for divorce (including identification of the "final straw") in order to unders...
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A random multistate sample of married individuals (N = 1,931) was used to explore whether more positive attitudes toward divorce and weaker commitment to marriage may contribute to the greater instability of remarriages than first marriages. Remarried adults, whether or not they brought children from a previous union into the remarriage, reported m...
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From choosing a partner to date to deciding to cohabit or marry, individuals are faced with many relationship choices. Given the costs of failed relationships (e.g., personal distress, problems with work, lower well-being for children, lost opportunities to meet other partners), it is important consider how individuals are approaching these decisio...
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Comments on the original article by Matthew D. Johnson (see record 2012-08242-001). It is important to challenge some of Johnson's points about the effectiveness and reach of interventions to lower income couples and couples of color and his suggested prioritization of basic over applied research. With emerging findings and practical knowledge gain...
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This study examined the effects of premarital relationship intervention on divorce during the first 8 years of first marriage. Religious organizations were randomly assigned to have couples marrying through them complete the Prevention and Relationship Education Program (PREP) or their naturally occurring premarital services. Results indicated no d...
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Three studies document the effect of prayer on satisfaction with sacrifice in close relationships. Study 1 (n = 771) demonstrated that prayer for partner predicted later satisfaction with sacrifice. In Study 2 couples discussed a disagreement and then prayed or engaged in a control activity. Praying increased satisfaction with sacrifice, couple ide...
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Relationship education researchers have recommended that dissemination efforts be expanded so interventions can reach high-risk groups. Electronic delivery can help achieve this goal, yet its development has been modest. In this pilot study, foster and adoptive parents, a high-risk group, were randomized to a brief, Web-based Prevention and Relatio...
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This study investigated three parental marital statuses and relationship quality among unmarried, but dating adults ages 18 to 35 (N = 1153). Those whose parents never married one another tended to report the lowest relationship quality (in terms of relationship adjustment, negative communication, commitment, and physical aggression) compared to th...
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Most Americans now live together before they marry but little is known about how the transition from dating to cohabiting affects relationships. In two studies, we compared dating and cohabiting relationships in terms of commitment and several indices of relationship quality. In Study 1, we used a nationally representative sample of 1,294 unmarried...
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Using a sample of unmarried individuals in opposite-sex romantic relationships that was representative of the United States (N = 933), the current study prospectively evaluated predictors of extradyadic sexual involvement (ESI) over 20 months (from 2007-2010). Data were collected with self-report questionnaires via U.S. mail. Participants were 18 t...
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This study uses meta-analytic methods to explore programmatic moderators or common factors of the effectiveness of marriage and relationship education (MRE) programs. We coded 148 evaluation reports for potential programmatic factors that were associated with stronger intervention effects, although the range of factors we could code was limited by...
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This longitudinal study followed 120 cohabiting couples over 8 months to test hypotheses derived from commitment theory about how two types of commitment (dedication and constraints) operate during cohabitation. In nearly half the couples, there were large differences between partners in terms of dedication. These differences were associated with l...
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While existing literature has begun to explore risk factors which may predict differential response to marriage education, a history of couple infidelity has not been examined to determine whether infidelity moderates the impacts of marriage education. The current study evaluated self-report marital satisfaction and communication skills in a sample...
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The current study examined the association between relationship adjustment and life satisfaction before marriage to 6 years into marriage in a sample of 126 couples. Results showed that both premarital relationship adjustment and premarital life satisfaction uniquely predicted marital adjustment 6 years into marriage. Premarital life satisfaction,...
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Although earlier studies have demonstrated promising effects of relationship education for military couples, these studies have lacked random assignment. The current study evaluated the short-term effects of relationship education for Army couples in a randomized clinical trial at two sites (476 couples at Site 1 and 184 couples at Site 2). At both...
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We examined 393 African American married couples assigned to (a) a culturally sensitive version of a widely disseminated relationship enhancement program (CS-PREP); (b) a similar version of the same program that also included a focus on prayer (PFP condition); or (c) an information-only control condition in which couples received a self-help versio...
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The Commitment Inventory (Stanley & Markman, 1992) measures interpersonal commitment (dedication) and constraint commitment. Since it was first published, substantial revisions have been made, but there are no published data on the psychometric properties of the new version. Further, little information is available on measuring commitment for unmar...
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This study examined the impact of unmarried relationship break-up on psychological distress and life satisfaction using a within-subjects design. Among unmarried 18- to 35-year olds (N = 1295), 36.5% had one or more break-ups over a 20-month period. Experiencing a break-up was associated with an increase in psychological distress and a decline in l...
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Military couples who have experienced deployment and reintegration in current U.S. military operations frequently experience stress regarding the dangers and effects of such experiences. The current study evaluated a sample of 300 couples with an active duty Army husband and civilian spouse who experienced a deployment within the year before the su...
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Social support, including support from spouses, may buffer against posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms. The current study assessed whether the frequency of spousal communication during a recent deployment, a potentially important source of support for soldiers, was related to postdeployment PTSD symptoms. Data came from 193 married male A...
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Combat-related posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is linked with elevated psychological distress in service members'/veterans' spouses. Researchers use a variety of terms to describe this distress, and recently, secondary traumatic stress and secondary traumatic stress disorder (STS/STSD) have become increasingly commonly used. Although STS/STSD...
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Relationship aggression has negative effects on adults, children, and on our society that cannot be overstated. In this paper, we first outline the benefits of using relationship education programs that are delivered to individuals (rather than couples) in preventing relationship aggression and co-occurring relationship aggression toward children....
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Premarital (and general relationship) education programs, as a prevention method, have been shown to have a positive effect on marital quality and can prevent divorce. However, it is unclear whether these positive effects are consistent across leaders who conduct premarital education programs. Examining the variability in relationship outcomes attr...
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Using commitment theory, the present study explored longitudinal associations between physical aggression and various aspects of commitment and relationship stability. Participants (N = 1,278) were unmarried adults between the ages of 18 and 35 who were in a heterosexual romantic relationship at the time of the initial assessment. Of these, 51.6% r...
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In this theoretical paper, we review central concepts in the psychological literature on relationship commitment to provide a foundation to discuss two themes related to long-term romantic relationships and marriages. First, we describe and discuss the role that commitment plays in stabilizing romantic attachment. Second, we use empirical research...
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Cohabitation has become a common element of the path that emerging adults travel as they navigate romantic relationships before settling down into marriage. There has been an explosion in the practice of cohabiting before marriage, and many emerging adults now cohabit regardless of marriage intentions. Along with the wide availability of birth cont...
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Many have argued that it is important to examine different aspects of commitment in romantic relationships, but few studies have done so. Using a large, national sample of unmarried adults in relationships (N = 1184), this study examined four aspects of relationship commitment and their associations with relationship adjustment and stability. We ex...
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Using a multi-state sample of marriages that took place in the 1990s, this study examined associations between premarital cohabitation history and marital quality in first (N = 437) and second marriages (N = 200), and marital instability in first marriages (intact N = 521, divorced N = 124). For first marriages, cohabiting with the spouse without f...
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Using a sample of 434 couples consisting of active duty Army husbands married to civilian wives, relationships between recent deployment, current posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms, and a range of marital outcomes were investigated. Self-reports from both husbands and wives regarding relationship functioning did not differ between couple...
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Using data from 210 couples who provided data across the first 5 years of marriage, we examined how premarital communication quality was related to divorce and later distress. The results showed that premarital observed negative and positive communication nearly reached significance as predictors of divorce, while self-reported negative communicati...
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Findings from a large, randomized controlled trial of couple education are presented in this brief report. Married Army couples were assigned to either PREP for Strong Bonds (n = 248) delivered by Army chaplains or to a no-treatment control group (n = 228). One year after the intervention, couples who received PREP for Strong Bonds had 1/3 the rate...
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This paper was given as a keynote address to the 2002 Annual Smart Marriages Conference in Washington D. C. The referencing has been updated as of November, 2004 to reflect works that were in press or under review that have been published since the time of the address. The paper reflects the structure of my thought and comments in the address, thou...
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Although second marriages are more likely to end in divorce than first marriages, and thus represent an important target for intervention, there have been no detailed examinations of the use of premarital education in second marriages. Using random-digit dialing methods, 398 individuals currently in a second marriage and 1,342 individuals currently...