Thomas Nelson Bradbury

Thomas Nelson Bradbury
University of California, Los Angeles | UCLA · Department of Psychology

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218
Publications
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Publications

Publications (218)
Preprint
It has been demonstrated that stress, experienced outside of a relationship, can spill into a relationship and cross over during interactions from one partner to the other. However, the mechanism of how stress cross over in real-time between partners is still unknown. To overcome this limitation, we invited 189 couples (N = 378 individuals) for two...
Article
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Objective Efforts to understand why some marriages thrive while others falter are (a) not well integrated conceptually and (b) rely heavily on data collected from White middle-class samples. The Vulnerability-Stress-Adaptation Model (VSA; Karney and Bradbury, 1995 ) is used here to integrate prior efforts and is tested using data collected from cou...
Article
It has been demonstrated that stress, experienced outside of a relationship, can spill into a relationship and cross over during interactions from one partner to the other. However, the mechanism of how stress cross over in real-time between partners is still unknown. To overcome this limitation, we invited 189 couples (N = 378 individuals) for two...
Article
Natural disasters have been purported to increase, and decrease, hostile conflict in intimate relationships, but heavy reliance on retrospective designs prohibits strong tests of these contrasting perspectives. The present study aims to resolve this ambiguity using a sample of newlywed couples from Houston, Texas who reported their levels of hostil...
Article
To estimate the effects of state‐level changes in the minimum wage on marriage and divorce among low‐wage earners. Proponents of raising the minimum wage highlight the potential benefits of increased earnings for low‐income families, yet to date research on the effects of raising the minimum wage has focused almost exclusively on economic outcomes....
Article
How do natural disasters affect intimate relationships? Some research suggests that couples are brought closer together after a disaster, whereas other research suggests that relationships become more strained in the aftermath. Yet all of this work is limited by a lack of predisaster data that would allow for examination of how relationships actual...
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Background Theoretical and clinical perspectives argue that couples’ maladaptive attributions for marital problems lead to marital distress and that these attributions will detract from couples’ relationships regardless of their external circumstances. However, emerging work in cognitive psychology indicates that stress simplifies individuals’ info...
Article
Introduction: For couples, depression can position diagnosed partners to receive dyadic coping and mates to primarily provide support. We examine whether inequities in dyadic coping covary with depressive symptoms. Methods: Using data from 62 mixed-gender couples with one partner diagnosed with major depression (60% female), we computed differences...
Article
Partners in intimate relationships, because they have each other to rely on, have generally been considered safe from the negative consequences of social isolation. Here we question this assumption, suggesting instead that social isolation may pose a threat to couples by depriving them of the tangible and emotional support that couples are likely t...
Article
Missing data are exceedingly common across a variety of disciplines, such as educational, social, and behavioral science areas. Missing not at random (MNAR) mechanism where missingness is related to unobserved data is widespread in real data and has detrimental consequence. However, the existing MNAR-based methods have potential problems such as le...
Article
Objective: Psychological aggression is common in intimate relationships, yet only a subset of psychologically aggressive couples also engage in physical violence. We examine two factors proposed to identify which psychologically aggressive couples display physical violence, emphasizing (a) couples' negative and ineffective communication during rel...
Article
Because relationship discord and dissolution are common and costly, interventions are needed to treat distressed couples and to prevent distress among vulnerable couples. We review meta-analytic evidence showing that 60–80% of distressed couples benefit from behavioral and emotion-focused approaches to couple therapy, but we also note that treatmen...
Article
Although a number of theoretical perspectives in relationship science argue that variability in couples' relationship satisfaction over time is driven by changes in their communication, tests of this hypothesis have been limited to single assessments of behavior. To address this gap, we examine within-couple, across-time changes in communication, a...
Article
Although getting married is no longer a requirement for social acceptance, most people do marry in their lifetimes, and couples across the socioeconomic spectrum wish their marriages to be satisfying and long lasting. This review evaluates the past decade of research on the determinants of satisfaction and stability in marriage, concluding that the...
Article
The stress-generation model, commonly applied in studies of psychopathology, purports that vulnerabilities to depression (e.g., rumination, doubt, self-blame, social withdrawal) increase the likelihood that stressful events will later occur, thus activating depressive vulnerabilities and worsening the course of depression. We adapt this model to ex...
Article
An increasing number of couples in the United States are entering their first marriage having already had a child together, raising important questions about whether and how these couples' marriages differ from newlywed couples who enter marriage without children. The current study used 5 waves of data collected over the first 4.5 years of marriage...
Article
Researchers often seek to synthesize results of multiple studies on the same topic to draw statistical or substantive conclusions and to estimate effect sizes that will inform power analyses for future research. The most popular synthesis approach is meta‐analysis. There have been few discussions and applications of other synthesis approaches. This...
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Despite being at elevated risk for relationship distress and dissolution, couples living with low incomes are less likely than their middle-class counterparts to participate in couple therapy. To increase treatment use among economically disadvantaged couples, information is needed on how they perceive barriers to treatment and on factors that migh...
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Demands for change in a relationship, particularly when met by behavioral withdrawal, foreshadow declines in relationship satisfaction. Yet demands can give partners opportunities to voice concerns, and withdrawal can serve to de-escalate conflict, stabilizing satisfaction instead (e.g., Overall, Fletcher, Simpson, & Sibley, 2009). We aim to reconc...
Article
Objective: The importance of recovery from stress is evident in times of high prevalence of stress-related diseases. Intimacy has been found to buffer psychobiological stress-reactivity, suggesting that emotional and physical closeness might trigger biological mechanisms which underlie the health-beneficial effects of couple relationships. Here we...
Article
Interventions aimed at reducing interpartner aggression assume that within-couple declines in aggression enhance individual and relational outcomes, yet reductions in aggression may fail to yield these benefits when other risk-generating mechanisms remain intact. The present study evaluates this possibility by investigating whether naturally observ...
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In intimate relationships, spousal support (or dyadic coping) can directly benefit relationships (i.e., direct effect) and protect the relationship against the negative spillover effects of stress (i.e., buffer effect). As stress-coping theories suggest, both processes can vary between persons as well as within persons. However, empirically, this d...
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Despite evidence that empirically supported couple therapies improve marital relationships, relatively few couples seek help when they need it. Low-income couples are particularly unlikely to engage in relationship interventions despite being at greater risk for distress and dissolution than their higher-income counterparts. The present study aimed...
Article
For the past two decades, policymakers have invested heavily in promoting the quality and stability of intimate relationships in low-income communities. To date, these efforts have emphasized relationship-skills education, but large-scale evaluations of these programs indicate that they have produced negligible benefits. Current policies are limite...
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Although active, responsive listening is widely assumed to be essential for well-functioning intimate relationships, the manner in which this important behavior might promote closeness remains unknown. To test the prediction that listening may be especially influential when partners disclose experiences of stress, we instructed 365 heterosexual cou...
Article
Intimate partner aggression is common in dissatisfied relationships, yet it remains unclear whether intimate partner aggression is a correlate of relationship satisfaction, whether it predicts or follows from relationship satisfaction over time, or whether longitudinal associations are in fact bidirectional in nature. The present study evaluates th...
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Partners in romantic relationships differ in the extent to which they are oriented towards positive outcomes (e.g., intimacy) or away from negative outcomes (e.g., conflict). The present study examines these approach-avoidance relationship goals in relation to self-reported relationship problems, stress communication, and dyadic coping. Hypotheses...
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Growing evidence that social support in times of stress is crucial for well-functioning relationships raises important questions about how intimate partners elicit specific forms of supportive behavior. To explore the process of support elicitation, we exposed either the male or female partner in a relationship to a standardized laboratory stressor...
Article
Are the marriages of lower income couples less satisfying than the marriages of more affluent couples? To address this question, we compared trajectories of marital satisfaction among couples with a wide range of household incomes. The marital satisfaction of 862 Black, White, and Latino newlywed spouses (N = 431 couples) was assessed five times, e...
Article
Although interpersonal communication is a defining feature of committed relationships, the quality of couple communication has not proven to be a straightforward cause of relationship quality. At the same time, emerging models argue that external circumstances likely combine with communication to generate changes in relationship quality. We integra...
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Sex presumably facilitates pair bonding, but how do partners remain pair-bonded between sexual acts? Evolutionary perspectives suggest that sexual afterglow serves this purpose. We explored how long sexual satisfaction would remain elevated following sex and predicted that stronger sexual afterglow would characterize more satisfying partnerships. W...
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Objective: Government initiatives undertaken to improve the earning potential of disadvantaged unmarried parents assume that job training and additional schooling will strengthen these families, yet alternative models predict that these same interventions could overwhelm couples' limited resources, undermining family stability. Method: We use 3...
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Growing evidence implicates stress as a reliable correlate of relationship satisfaction; yet, existing models fail to address why some relationships are more vulnerable than others to this effect. We draw from the literature on individual differences in self-regulation to predict that individuals who are more action oriented when confronted with av...
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Prevailing views of marital functioning generally adopt the view that marital problems predict decreases in marital satisfaction, but alternative theoretical perspectives raise the possibility that lowered satisfaction can also predict increases in problems. The current study sought to integrate and compare these perspectives by examining the bidir...
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Although children are known to be highly sensitive to interparental conflict, important questions remain regarding which specific combinations of positive and negative behaviors as well as verbal and nonverbal expressions are most predictive of children's perceptions. In this pilot study, we examined observational data on interparental conflict as...
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Although people with a history of child abuse are known to be at elevated risk for later difficulties in relationships, there is debate over whether these effects are enduring and relatively immutable or are moderated by characteristics and behaviors of the partner. To reconcile these competing perspectives, we conducted a longitudinal study of 414...
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The quality of communication between spouses is widely assumed to affect their subsequent judgments of relationship satisfaction, yet this assumption is rarely tested against the alternative prediction that communication is merely a consequence of spouses' prior levels of satisfaction. To evaluate these perspectives, newlywed couples' positivity, n...
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Although partners in close social relationships often enable one another to manage stress, stress can also undermine the many benefits that these relationships provide. We review interventions designed to reduce the effects of stress on relationships, distinguishing (a) couple-targeted interventions that aim to build couples’ skills in managing str...
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Objective: Although preventive educational interventions for couples have been examined in more than 100 experimental studies, the value of this work is limited by reliance on economically advantaged populations and by an absence of data on proposed mediators and moderators. Data from the Supporting Healthy Marriage Project-a randomized, controlle...
Chapter
The Compassionate and Accepting Relationships through Empathy (CARE) program is a psychoeducational program for couples that seeks to strengthen relationships and prevent adverse marital outcomes by encouraging and promoting the use of prosocial, empathy-based skills that couples already possess to varying degrees. This chapter discusses the backgr...
Article
Although much has been learned from cross-sectional research on marriage, an understanding of how marriages develop, succeed, and fail is best achieved with longitudinal data. In view of growing interest in longitudinal research on marriage, the authors reviewed and evaluated the literature on how the quality and stability of marriages change over...
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Divorced individuals offer explanations for why their relationship ended, yet little is known about the development of these problems during the relationship. Problems that lead to divorce may exist at the beginning of the marriage (enduring dynamics model) or may develop over time (emergent distress model). We asked 40 divorced individuals about t...
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Personal commitment, or individual’s intrinsic attitudes toward the long-term development of the relationship, is known to predict relationship stability, and its capacity to motivate relationship maintenance behaviors likely accounts for these beneficial effects. However, commitment in relationships has been assessed typically as a global dimensio...
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Although evolutionary and social-structural models predict that women will be more supportive than men in relationships, behavioral studies fail to confirm this difference. We predicted instead that gender differences in support will be moderated by stress, and that men will provide lower-quality support primarily when their stress is high. We pred...
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The purpose of the present study was to test a relational spillover model of physical aggression whereby physical aggression affects marital outcomes due to its effects on how spouses ask for and provide support to one another. Newlywed couples (n = 172) reported levels of physical aggression over the past year and engaged in interactions designed...
Article
Avoidance goals heighten the salience of negative social experiences, and in intimate relationships such an orientation may contribute to communication difficulties and the perpetuation of avoidance. We therefore hypothesized that individuals with stronger avoidance goals would be particularly prone to engage in escalating levels of negative commun...
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Assortative-mating theories propose that individuals select romantic relationship partners who are similar to them on positive and negative qualities. Furthermore, stress-generation and intergenerational transmission of divorce models argue that one's depression history or family-of-origin relationship problems predict qualities of a marital partne...
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Although social learning theory provides the conceptual basis for behavioral interventions designed to treat and prevent relationship distress, the results of large, recently published experiments cast doubt on the long-term viability of this approach. For example, couple therapies can produce lasting improvements in relationships, yet these improv...
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Objective: To test whether the effects of relationship education programs generalize across couples regardless of their baseline levels of risk for relationship distress, or whether intervention effects vary systematically as a function of risk. The former result would support primary prevention models; the latter result would support a shift towa...
Article
Marriages and other intimate partnerships are facilitated or constrained by the social networks within which they are embedded. To date, methods used to assess the social networks of couples have been limited to global ratings of social network characteristics or network data collected from each partner separately. In the current article, the autho...
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Strong marriages are associated with a range of positive outcomes for adults and their children. But many couples struggle to build and sustain strong marriages. Federal initiatives have sought to support marriage, particularly among low-income populations, through programs that emphasize relationship education. Recent results from three largescale...
Article
Developing programs to support low-income married couples requires an accurate understanding of the challenges they face. To address this question, we assessed the salience and severity of relationship problems by asking 862 Black, White, and Latino newlywed spouses (N = 431 couples) living in low-income neighborhoods to (a) free list their 3 bigge...
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Although personal happiness is highly associated with social relationships, basic questions remain regarding the causal effect of improved social relationships on happiness. The main aim of this study was to test whether emotional and cognitive dimensions of personal happiness can be increased by means of a self-directed relationship enhancement pr...
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Relative to White families, Black families have been described as relying on extended social networks to compensate for other social and economic disadvantages. The presence or absence of supportive social networks should be especially relevant to young couples entering marriage, but to date there has been little effort to describe the social netwo...
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Although couples' management of differences and problems is widely assumed to be central to the course and outcome of their relationships, some theoretical perspectives hold that marital conflicts increase over the newlywed years, whereas others maintain that couples' problems remain stable. We tested these opposing views by examining changes in ma...
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Spousal interactions are key predictors of relationship satisfaction in couples, but it is not yet sufficiently clear which aspect of spousal interactions matter most. In this study, three forms of interactions are examined to disentangle their unique associations with relationship satisfaction. Altogether, 1944 married individuals completed questi...
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According to the systemic-transactional stress model (STM; G. Bodenmann, European Review of Applied Psychology, 1997; 47: 137), extradyadic stress from daily hassles can have a negative impact on the individual psychological and physical health and the couple's relationship. This study is the first one to test the STM propositions in a model that i...
Data
Although prevention of relationship distress and dissolution has potential to strengthen the well-being of partners and any children they are raising, dissemination of prevention programs can be limited because couples face many barriers to in-person participation. An alternative strategy, providing couples with an instructional DVD, is tested in t...
Article
Full-text available
Although prevention of relationship distress and dissolution has potential to strengthen the well-being of partners and any children they are raising, dissemination of prevention programs can be limited because couples face many barriers to in-person participation. An alternative strategy, providing couples with an instructional DVD, is tested in t...
Article
Full-text available
Background: Previous research focused on relationship commitment as outcome of high satisfaction, poor alternatives and high investments. We propose that commitment is a prerequisite in highly satisfied couples, fostering relationship maintenance behavior such as positive dyadic coping. Method: Structural equation models identified the relatedness...
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Interventions intended to prevent relationship distress are expected to enhance relationship satisfaction and, in turn, reduce the need for later couples counseling. We test this prediction against an alternative possibility: participation in preventive interventions may operate as a gateway for later help-seeking, paradoxically increasing receipt...
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Objective: Evidence in support of skill-based programs for preventing marital discord and dissolution, while promising, comes mainly from studies using single treatment conditions, passive assessment-only control conditions, and short-term follow-up assessments of relationship outcomes. This study overcomes these limitations and further evaluates...
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Newlywed spouses routinely hope and believe that their relationships will thrive, but theoretical accounts differ on whether optimistic projections such as believing that one's marriage will improve are sources of strength, random forecasting errors, or self-protective mechanisms. To test these opposing perspectives, we asked 502 newlywed spouses i...
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Communication behavior is an integral part of relationship functioning and, therefore, a common target of relationship interventions. Between-couple variability in observed behaviors is commonly interpreted as reflecting their underlying skill in communication, but other factors, including perceived difficulty of the problem and the topic being dis...
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Social-learning perspectives explicitly recognize the role of partners' personal histories and contexts as possible causes of couple communication behavior, but these assumptions are rarely tested directly, and operationalizations of context in behavioral research on couples rarely extend beyond the interacting dyad. To broaden our understanding of...
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Evidence for the stress-buffering effects of social support in intimate relationships raises important questions about whether partner support promotes recovery in physiological systems implicated in physical health. The present study examined (a) whether observed dyadic coping enhances cortisol stress recovery and (b) whether a stressed partner's...
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Are the doubts that people feel before marriage signs of impending difficulties or normative experiences that can be safely ignored? To test these opposing views, we asked 464 recently married spouses whether they had ever been uncertain about getting married and then compared 4-year divorce rates and marital satisfaction trajectories among those p...