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A Brief Intervention to Promote Conflict Reappraisal Preserves Marital Quality Over Time

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Marital quality is a major contributor to happiness and health. Unfortunately, marital quality normatively declines over time. We tested whether a novel 21-min intervention designed to foster the reappraisal of marital conflicts could preserve marital quality in a sample of 120 couples enrolled in an intensive 2-year study. Half of the couples were randomly assigned to receive the reappraisal intervention in Year 2 (following no intervention in Year 1); half were not. Both groups exhibited declines in marital quality over Year 1. This decline continued in Year 2 among couples in the control condition, but it was eliminated among couples in the reappraisal condition. This effect of the reappraisal intervention on marital quality over time was mediated through reductions in conflict-related distress over time. This study illustrates the potential of brief, theory-based, social-psychological interventions to preserve the quality of intimate relationships over time.
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Psychological Science
XX(X) 1 –7
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DOI: 10.1177/0956797612474938
Research Report
Of the social factors linked to mental and physical health,
marital quality is among the most important (Myers, 2000;
Parker-Pope, 2010). For example, 57% of people who are
“very happy” in their marriage are also very happy in
general, whereas only 10% who are “pretty happy” in
their marriage are very happy in general. Among patients
who have had a coronary artery bypass graft, those who
were high rather than low in marital satisfaction 1 year
following the surgery were 3.2 times more likely to be
alive 15 years after the surgery, an effect that could not be
explained by demographic, behavioral, or baseline health
measures (King & Reis, 2012; also see Coyne, Rohrbaugh,
Shoham, Sonnega, & Nicklas, 2001).
Given the intrinsic importance of martial relationships
for many people and the robust associations of marital
quality with mental and physical health, it is disconcert-
ing that marital quality normatively declines over time
(Glenn, 1998; VanLaningham, Johnson, & Amato, 2001).
Indeed, although cross-sectional research suggests that
trajectories of marital quality normatively become posi-
tive following an initial decline (e.g., Glenn, 1990; Spanier
& Lewis, 1980), the best evidence—from longitudinal
studies—suggests that the normative downward trajec-
tory does not reverse at any stage of marital longevity,
instead remaining unambiguously negative throughout
most stages of the marriage (Glenn, 1998; VanLaningham
et al., 2001).
Scholars have identified a broad range of factors that
predict poor marital quality. Among relational processes,
arguably the most robust predictor is negative-affect
reciprocity—a chain of retaliatory negativity between
spouses during marital conflict, such as when a husband
responds to his wife’s criticism of his parenting with an
angry denial or an insulting evaluation of her integrity
(Gottman, 1998). Scholars have developed interventions
to interrupt such chains of negativity before they become
all-consuming (e.g., Baucom, Shoham, Mueser, Daiuto, &
XXX10.1177/0956797612474938Finkel et al.Reappraising Conflict
Corresponding Author:
Eli J. Finkel, Northwestern University, Department of Psychology, 2029
Sheridan Rd., Swift Hall #102, Evanston, IL 60208
A Brief Intervention to Promote Conflict
Reappraisal Preserves Marital Quality
Over Time
Eli J. Finkel
, Erica B. Slotter
, Laura B. Luchies
Gregory M. Walton
, and James J. Gross
Northwestern University,
Villanova University,
Redeemer University College, and
Stanford University
Marital quality is a major contributor to happiness and health. Unfortunately, marital quality normatively declines
over time. We tested whether a novel 21-min intervention designed to foster the reappraisal of marital conflicts could
preserve marital quality in a sample of 120 couples enrolled in an intensive 2-year study. Half of the couples were
randomly assigned to receive the reappraisal intervention in Year 2 (following no intervention in Year 1); half were
not. Both groups exhibited declines in marital quality over Year 1. This decline continued in Year 2 among couples in
the control condition, but it was eliminated among couples in the reappraisal condition. This effect of the reappraisal
intervention on marital quality over time was mediated through reductions in conflict-related distress over time. This
study illustrates the potential of brief, theory-based, social-psychological interventions to preserve the quality of
intimate relationships over time.
emotional reappraisal, marriage, relationship quality, emotion regulation, social-psychological intervention
Received 8/16/12; Revision accepted 12/19/12
Psychological Science OnlineFirst, published on June 26, 2013 as doi:10.1177/0956797612474938
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2 Finkel et al.
Stickle, 1998). Although such interventions can some-
times help spouses learn to manage their emotions more
constructively, they also tend to require considerable
investment of time and money. In addition, they are uni-
formly multicomponential, which makes it difficult to dis-
cern which component (or components) improves
relationship quality.
Inspired by research demonstrating that brief, theory-
based, social-psychological interventions can yield
remarkably enduring improvements in people’s lives by
fostering thoughts and behaviors that self-reinforce over
time (Yeager & Walton, 2011), we developed an interven-
tion to test whether reappraising conflict can preserve
marital quality over an extended period of time (at least
in a nonclinical sample). Given that relationship quality is
strongly influenced by recursive, self-reinforcing dynam-
ics, such as negative-affect reciprocity, it represents an
especially promising target for a brief social-psychologi-
cal intervention. In addition, because this intervention
focused precisely on a theory-specified process, it
required minimal investment of time or other resources.
Our intervention capitalized on the power of emo-
tional reappraisal—reinterpreting the meaning of emo-
tion-eliciting situations (Gross, 2002)—to help people
manage negative emotions constructively. It was adapted
from a laboratory experiment in which participants who
were asked to reappraise an interpersonal conflict from a
third-party perspective experienced less anger and dis-
tress than participants who were asked to ruminate about
the conflict or who were given no instructions (Ray,
Wilhelm, & Gross, 2008; also see Kross, Ayduk, & Mischel,
2005). Given the default tendency to view interpersonal
conflict from a first-person perspective (Nigro & Neisser,
1983; Robinson & Swanson, 1993; Verduyn, Van Mechelen,
Kross, Chezzi, & Van Bever, 2012), we theorized that con-
flict-related anger and distress should dissipate more rap-
idly among people who are trained to engage in
third-party perspective taking than among people who
are not, and that this dissipation should, in turn, preserve
relationship quality over time.
We conducted a seven-wave, 2-year longitudinal study
of married couples, randomly assigning half the couples
to the reappraisal intervention during Year 2. Participants
reported every 4 months on their marital quality and on
the most significant conflict they had experienced in their
marriage during that time interval. These procedures
allowed us to test three hypotheses:
1. Marital quality will decline over time.
2. This downward trend will be reduced, perhaps
even eliminated, among participants who experi-
enced the reappraisal intervention in Year 2.
3. This reduction of the downward trend in marital
quality will be mediated by declining postinter-
vention conflict-related distress in the reappraisal
condition relative to the control condition.
Participants were 120 heterosexual married couples from
the Chicago metropolitan area (mean age of individual
participants = 40 years, SD = 14, range = 20–79; mean
duration of the marriage = 11 years, SD = 12, range =
0.1–52). They learned about the study via newspaper and advertisements or via flyers distributed
through a local school system (children brought the flyer
home to their parents). Every 4 months for 24 months—
seven waves in total—they reported their relationship
satisfaction, love, intimacy, trust, passion, and commit-
ment (Fletcher, Simpson, & Thomas, 2000; Rusbult, Martz,
& Agnew, 1998; see Table 1 for scale information). These
six marital-quality measures are distinct but converge on
the higher-order construct of subjective marital quality
(Fletcher et al., 2000), which we calculated by standard-
izing each scale and averaging them into a composite.
At Wave 1, participants completed an Internet-based
questionnaire, which contained the marital-quality assess-
ment, and then they attended a laboratory session in
which they completed a series of tasks (e.g., a conflict
discussion, executive-control tasks) that are irrelevant to
Table 1. The Six Marital-Quality Components Used in the Present Study
Outcome variable Sample item Cronbach’s D
Satisfaction “I feel satisfied with our relationship.” .96
Love “How much do you love your partner?” .92
Intimacy “How intimate is your relationship?” .91
Trust “How much do you trust your partner?” .90
Passion “How passionate is your relationship?” .94
Commitment “I am committed to maintaining my
relationship with my partner.”
Note: Satisfaction and commitment were measured on scales from 1 (strongly disagree)
to 7 (strongly agree) using the Investment Model Scale (Rusbult, Martz, & Agnew, 1998).
Love, intimacy, trust, and passion were measured on scales from 1 (not at all) to 7
(extremely) using the Perceived Relationship Quality Components Inventory (Fletcher,
Simpson, & Thomas, 2000). These six marital-quality components were standardized and
then averaged to calculate the measure of overall marital quality.
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Reappraising Conflict 3
the present article. At Waves 2 through 7, which took
place entirely via the Internet, participants provided a
“fact-based summary of the most significant disagree-
ment” they had experienced with their spouse over the
preceding 4 months, “focusing on behavior, not on
thoughts or feelings.” After providing this description,
they reported, on scales from 1 (strongly disagree) to 7
(strongly agree), their level of conflict-related distress
(e.g., “I am angry at my partner for his/her behavior dur-
ing this conflict”; D = .72).
All participants underwent identical procedures dur-
ing the first 12 months. Then, by random assignment, half
of the couples engaged in an additional 7-min writing
task at the end of Waves 4 through 6 (Months 12, 16, and
20, respectively), during which they reappraised the con-
flict they had just written about. In addition, at Months
14, 18, and 22, we sent participants in the reappraisal
condition an e-mail reminding them of the reappraisal
task; we e-mailed participants in the control condition at
the same times, but just as a friendly check-in. During the
reappraisal writing task, participants responded to three
1. “Think about the specific disagreement that you
just wrote about having with your partner. Think
about this disagreement with your partner from
the perspective of a neutral third party who wants
the best for all involved; a person who sees things
from a neutral point of view. How might this per-
son think about the disagreement? How might he
or she find the good that could come from it?”
2. “Some people find it helpful to take this third-party
perspective during their interactions with their
romantic partner. However, almost everybody finds
it challenging to take this third-party perspective at
all times. In your relationship with your partner,
what obstacles do you face in trying to take this
third-partner perspective, especially when you’re
having a disagreement with your partner?”
3. “Despite the obstacles to taking a third-party per-
spective, people can be successful in doing so.
Over the next 4 months, please try your best to
take this third-party perspective during interac-
tions with your partner, especially during dis-
agreements. How might you be most successful in
taking this perspective in your interactions with
your partner over the next 4 months? How might
taking this perspective help you make the best of
disagreements in your relationship?”
For each person i, we ran seven multilevel, discontinuous
growth-curve analyses (Singer & Willett, 2003) to
test Hypothesis 1 and Hypothesis 2. These analyses
predicted, in turn, overall marital quality and each of the
six marital-quality subcomponents from (a) time (assess-
ment time, t, coded 0–6 for Waves 1–7, respectively), (b)
condition (control = 0, reappraisal = 1), and (c) time
since intervention (change in slope as a function of the
intervention, coded 0 for all waves for control partici-
pants and coded 0 for Waves 1–4 and 1–3 for Waves 5–7,
respectively, for reappraisal participants). Our statistical
model was as follows:
marital quality measure
= S
+ S
(time) +
) + S
(time since intervention
) + H
We expected to find negative effects of time (Hypoth esis
1: marital quality deteriorates over time, S
) and positive
effects for time since intervention (Hypothesis 2: the neg-
ative effect of time is smaller for reappraisal than for con-
trol participants after the intervention begins, S
As predicted, participants tended to exhibit robust
declines in overall marital quality (Hypothesis 1), S
0.06, t(122) = 10.04, p < .001, but after the intervention
began, participants in the reappraisal condition were
protected from this downward trend—that is, the Year 2
marital-quality slopes differed across the two conditions
(Hypothesis 2), S
= 0.05, t(122) = 3.19, p = .001 (Fig. 1).
Indeed, for reappraisal participants, the downward trend
was entirely eliminated, p = .842. The same pattern
emerged for all six subcomponents of marital quality
(Table 2), and, taken together, 13 of the 14 tests of
Hypothesis 1 and Hypothesis 2 reached statistical signifi-
cance, all ps < .05.
Next, we tested whether the positive postintervention
slope for marital quality could be explained by a reduc-
tion in conflict-related distress among participants in the
reappraisal condition. First, we regressed the postinter-
vention slope of conflict-related distress
(the hypothe-
sized mediator) onto the experimental manipulation (the
independent variable). As predicted, relative to partici-
pants in the control condition, participants in the reap-
praisal condition exhibited significant postintervention
reductions over time in conflict-related distress, b = 0.23,
t(116) = 2.85, p = .006. Second, we regressed the
postintervention slope of marital quality (the hypothe-
sized dependent variable) onto both the postintervention
slope of conflict-related distress and the experimental
manipulation. As predicted, the postintervention slope of
conflict-related distress was negatively associated with
the postintervention slope of marital quality, b = 0.87,
t(117) = 1.91, p = .057.
Third, following Preacher and Hayes’s (2008) recom-
mendations, we employed bootstrapping procedures
with 5,000 resamples, using the bias-corrected and accel-
erated approach, to assess whether the postintervention
slope of conflict-related distress statistically mediated the
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4 Finkel et al.
effect of the reappraisal intervention on the postinterven-
tion slope of marital quality. The resulting 95% confi-
dence interval [0.012, 0.568] did not contain 0, which is
consistent with our hypothesis that a crucial reason why
the reappraisal intervention preserved marital quality
over time is that it reduced conflict-related distress over
time (Hypothesis 3). (Testing for mediation in the other
direction, with relationship quality as the mediator and
conflict-related distress as the dependent measure,
revealed a nonsignificant effect.)
This study demonstrated that a 21-min writing interven-
tion in which participants reappraised conflict in their
marriage protected them against declines in marital qual-
ity over time. It also provided evidence that this effect
was driven, at least in part, by a reduction in conflict-
related distress over time among participants in the inter-
vention condition.
At a practical level, these findings provide a promising
target for clinical or even (given the Internet-based deliv-
ery) large-scale epidemiological interventions oriented
toward counteracting the normative downward trend in
marital quality over time (Glenn, 1998; VanLaningham
et al., 2001). At a methodological level, these findings add
to the growing body of research demonstrating the power
of brief, theory-based, social-psychological interventions
to promote achievement, health, and well-being (Yeager
& Walton, 2011). At a theoretical level, these findings pro-
vide especially compelling evidence for the power of
adopting a third-party perspective to reduce anger related
to relationship conflicts (see Kross et al., 2005; Ray et al.,
2008). The positive effect of our reappraisal intervention
on marital quality over time was mediated by reduced
conflict-related anger and distress over time; however,
future research is necessary to discern precisely how the
intervention exerted these distress-reducing effects. Our
manipulation—in which participants were instructed to
think about the conflict from the perspective of a third
party who adopts a neutral point of view and wants the
best for all involved—presumably inculcated not only a
self-distanced psychological perspective (Kross et al.,
2005) and third-party visual perspective (Libby & Eibach,
2011), but also the “adaptive framework” (see Libby &
Eibach, 2011, p. 234) of wanting the best for all involved.
Future research is required to determine whether the
efficacy of the reappraisal intervention depends on
obtaining that adaptive framework or whether adopting a
neutral third-party perspective is sufficient, on its own, to
yield salutary effects on relationship quality. Such
research could fruitfully investigate the role of a range
of cognitive and psychological processes in linking reap-
praisal and conflict-related distress to marital quality,
including tendencies toward cerebral rather than visceral
reactions, benign rather than blameful attributions,
0 4 8 12 16 20 24
Months Since Stud
Waves 1–7
Control Condition
Reappraisal Condition
Overall Marital Quality
Reappraisal Intervention Begins
Fig. 1. Overall marital-quality score as a function of wave and condition. The asterisks and the dag-
ger indicate significant differences between conditions (
p < .10, **p < .01, ***p < .001). The overall
intercept term—the model-implied mean of overall marital quality at study entry across the entire
sample—is represented by S
. The overall slope term—the model-implied slope of overall marital
quality over time across the entire sample—is represented by S
. The (negligible and nonsignificant)
immediate increment in overall marital quality resulting from involvement in the reappraisal interven-
tion is represented by S
. The increment in the slope in overall marital quality over time resulting
from involvement in the reappraisal intervention is represented by S
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Reappraising Conflict 5
Table 2. Results of the Multilevel, Discontinuous Growth-Curve Models Predicting the
Measures of Marital Quality
Outcome variable and parameter
t test
bdf t
Overall marital quality
Overall intercept (S
) 0.17 119 1.83
Overall trajectory/slope (S
) 0.06 119 10.04***
Intervention-based increment at Wave 4 (S
) 0.02 119 0.18
Intervention-based trajectory/slope deviation (S
) 0.05 119 3.19**
Overall intercept (S
) 6.00 115 42.85***
Overall trajectory/slope (S
) 0.08 115 4.04***
Intervention-based increment at Wave 4 (S
) 0.05 115 0.25
Intervention-based trajectory/slope deviation (S
) 0.07 115 2.44*
Overall intercept (S
) 6.47 115 78.98***
Overall trajectory/slope (S
) 0.10 115 5.74***
Intervention-based increment at Wave 4 (S
) 0.07 115 0.89
Intervention-based trajectory/slope deviation (S
) 0.12 115 5.08***
Overall intercept (S
) 6.01 116 50.87***
Overall trajectory/slope (S
) 0.12 116 6.62***
Intervention-based increment at Wave 4 (S
) 0.21 116 1.27
Intervention-based trajectory/slope deviation (S
) 0.15 116 5.11***
Overall intercept (S
) 6.47 117 82.75***
Overall trajectory/slope (S
) 0.07 117 4.45***
Intervention-based increment at Wave 4 (S
) 0.17 117 1.56
Intervention-based trajectory/slope deviation (S
) 0.10 117 3.96**
Overall intercept (S
) 5.50 114 41.94***
Overall trajectory/slope (S
) 0.12 114 6.87***
Intervention-based increment at Wave 4 (S
) 0.13 114 0.72
Intervention-based trajectory/slope deviation (S
) 0.12 114 3.66***
Overall intercept (S
) 6.76 115 22.07***
Overall trajectory/slope (S
) 0.05 115 4.57***
Intervention-based increment at Wave 4 (S
) 0.04 115 0.54
Intervention-based trajectory/slope deviation (S
) 0.02 115 0.76
Note: The overall marital-quality measure was created by standardizing and then averaging the
six marital-quality components (satisfaction, love intimacy, trust, passion, and commitment). The
intervention (for the reappraisal group only) started at Wave 4. The intervention-based trajectory/
slope deviation (S
) for each component represents the test of the crucial hypothesis that the
intervention altered the marital-quality trajectory over time.
p < .10. *p < .05. **p < .01. ***p < .001.
minimal rather than excessive reliving, normal rather
than elevated physiological arousal, abstract rather than
concrete construal, reconstrued rather than literal per-
spective, wise rather than unwise reasoning, and integra-
tive/top-down rather than phenomenological/bottom-up
meaning making (Kross & Ayduk, 2011; Kross et al., 2005;
Kross & Grossman, 2012; Libby & Eibach, 2011).
The present study had limitations, and the prospect
of addressing them yields exciting directions for future
research. For example, although it seems likely that
the reduction of conflict-related distress yielded a con-
comitant reduction in negative-affect reciprocity, defini-
tive conclusions along those lines await research
employing microlevel behavioral analysis of marital
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6 Finkel et al.
conflict. Although the reappraisal intervention changed
the trajectory of participants’ marriages and thus yielded
gains in marital quality that strengthened over the year-
long intervention period, future research is required to
discern whether the procedure can help to sustain mari-
tal well-being over the course of many years or decades.
Although the intervention preserved marital quality over
time, it did not increase it. Future research could explore
whether the intervention can be enhanced so that it actu-
ally increases marital quality over time; such an interven-
tion would be especially promising for already distressed
couples, for whom the maintenance of current levels of
marital quality might not be an adequate outcome. In
addition, future research could address various issues
pertaining to the dosage, timing, and implementation of
the intervention. For example, might the impact of the
intervention diminish over the course of years or decades?
Would the intervention remain effective if it were imple-
mented less frequently than every 4 months? Might it be
stronger (or perhaps weaker) if it were implemented
more frequently than that? Would it be effective if only
one spouse in each couple participated?
These unanswered questions notwithstanding, the
present research has revealed something new and poten-
tially important: A brief intervention designed to promote
conflict reappraisal preserves marital quality over time.
That this effect was not moderated by marital duration
suggests that it may be every bit as effective in long-
married as in newlywed couples. Given the major health
and well-being correlates of marital distress—both for
the spouses themselves and for their children and
broader social networks—spending 21 min a year reap-
praising conflict appears to yield a spectacular return on
Author Contributions
E. J. Finkel procured the grant funding. E. J. Finkel, G. M.
Walton, and J. J. Gross designed the intervention. E. J. Finkel
and E. B. Slotter developed the broader empirical protocol, and
the two of them collaborated with L. B. Luchies on the data col-
lection. E. J. Finkel and E. B. Slotter devised the data-analytic
plan, which E. B. Slotter executed. E. J. Finkel wrote the first
draft of the manuscript, and all authors contributed substan-
tively to the revisions. All authors approved the final version of
the manuscript for submission.
Declaration of Conflicting Interests
The authors declared that they had no conflicts of interest
with respect to their authorship or the publication of this
1. This effect was not moderated by race, gender, age, income,
marital duration, number of children, or age of children,
ps > .225.
2. The only effect that did not reach statistical significance
(p < .05, two-tailed) was the postintervention slope effect (S
for commitment. If this anomalous finding proves reliable in
future research, scholars could explore whether commitment’s
greater cognitive (vs. affective) tenor or its future (vs. present)
orientation can explain this finding.
3. We created this measure by running a multilevel, discontinu-
ous growth-curve analysis identical to that in Equation 1, except
that conflict-related distress was the dependent variable.
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Educational Research, 81, 267–301.
at NORTHWESTERN UNIV LIBRARY on June 28, 2013pss.sagepub.comDownloaded from
... Critical to scaling up brief interventions is a theory-driven approach using a rigorous randomized controlled trial (RCT) design on a smaller scale (Wilson & Juarez, 2015). One such theory-driven approach is the "Marriage Hack" (Finkel et al., 2013), a brief intervention that specifically targets negative affect reciprocity within conflict interactions. Over the course of three 7-minute writing sessions, couples participating in the Marriage Hack were encouraged to reappraise their conflicts from a neutral, third-party perspective who wants the best for all involved. ...
... Over the course of three 7-minute writing sessions, couples participating in the Marriage Hack were encouraged to reappraise their conflicts from a neutral, third-party perspective who wants the best for all involved. In an RCT design with low-risk couples, this intervention was shown to reduce conflict-related negativity and buffered against normative declines in marital quality over time, in line with the theoretical model (Finkel et al., 2013). The promotion of a selfdistanced psychological perspective and third-party visual perspective may thwart negative affect reciprocity in conflict interactions (Finkel et al., 2013). ...
... In an RCT design with low-risk couples, this intervention was shown to reduce conflict-related negativity and buffered against normative declines in marital quality over time, in line with the theoretical model (Finkel et al., 2013). The promotion of a selfdistanced psychological perspective and third-party visual perspective may thwart negative affect reciprocity in conflict interactions (Finkel et al., 2013). ...
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Parenting couples with young children are at risk for relationship problems, which was exacerbated during the pandemic. The current study examines the use of a brief, low-intensity writing intervention that promotes conflict reappraisal strategies to enhance relationship quality. We examine feasibility metrics (i.e., recruitment, eligibility criteria, demographics, retention, adherence, uptake, and acceptability) and pre-post change in couple and family outcomes, with the goal of informing future program iterations. Fifteen couples (n = 30), at elevated risk for relationship difficulties due to their developmental stage (i.e., couples with children <6 years old) and the context (i.e., COVID-19 pandemic), took part in a single-arm, pre-test/post-test study in August – October 2021. Following the completion of baseline surveys, couples independently took part in three conflict reappraisal writing sessions over the course of five weeks. Subsequently, they completed post-test surveys. The sample was diverse: 60.0% of participants identified as being part of a racially minoritized group; 40.0% reported being born outside of Canada; and 13.3% self-identified as LGBTQIA2S+. Adherence, retention, and uptake were good, as was intervention acceptability. Positive change was evident in couple outcomes (relationship quality and responsiveness), in expected directions, with less support for change in family outcomes (parenting and parent mental health). Findings justify a future evaluative randomized controlled trial. In the future, we will aim to increase recruitment efforts and expand participant diversity, with some planned program changes. Registration (retroactive): NCT05143437.
... Triggers can be external events, internal states, or a combination of both. Examining these triggers helps identify the immediate antecedents that activate or prompt the behaviour [28]. ...
... Partners who possess high dispositional self-control or in-the-moment self-regulatory strength (e.g., when partners are not stressed or tired) have the energy and resources to overcome destructive impulses necessary for responsiveness [31,32]. Partners also need to be able to down-regulate negative emotions to approach conflict resolution collaboratively, such as by acknowledging and accepting emotions and reappraising conflict in less threatening ways instead of suppressing or amplifying emotions [33][34][35][36]. Partners who are more secure, higher in self-esteem, and face less emotional difficulties themselves (see Table 1) also are likely to have the trust, efficacy, and resources to override self-protective, destructive reactions in order to be responsive. ...
Conflict affords an opportunity for relationship partners to demonstrate that they can be responsive to each other's needs. Understanding what constitutes responsiveness during conflict requires taking a dyadic perspective to identify how partners can tailor responses to address actors' specific needs. The present article reviews recent evidence showing that perceived responsiveness emerges from dyadic patterns involving how both partners and actors behave, and that partners' responsiveness during conflict involves different kinds of behaviors depending on actors' behavior and needs. These dyadic patterns emphasize that building tailored responsiveness to promote conflict resolution requires couples being able and willing to identify, communicate, and respond to each other's specific needs.
... Reconstruing conflict in relationships may also prevent declines in relationship quality. For example, Finkel, Slotter, Luchies, Walton, and Gross (2013) conducted a longitudinal study in which married couples were assigned to write about a conflict with their partner from the psychologically distanced perspective of a neutral third party who wanted the best for all involved; individuals, in turn, felt less distressed and happier in their marriage over time, compared to a control condition who did not receive this appraisal intervention. As another example, having a "destiny" mindset in relationships -the fixed belief that romantic partners are either meant for each other or not -predicts more negative reactions to relationship conflict and more avoidance coping in response to relationship stressors. ...
Social psychologists have long been interested in studying the effects of threat on physiology, affect, cognition, and behavior. However, researchers have traditionally examined threat at the level of individuals, relationships, or groups, rather than studying commonalities that exist across these levels. In this chapter, we propose that social evaluative threat – the real, imagined, or potential experience of being negatively evaluated – can occur at the level of the individual self, as a relational partner, or as a group member. Individual, relational, and collective selves are not always distinct entities, but are flexible and can overlap with one another. Across these levels, individuals differ in the degree to which they perceive and respond to social evaluative threat, depending on their psychological distance from the threat and expectations and motivation to detect threat. When people perceive a threat to any of these levels, they respond by engaging in behaviors reflecting approach or avoidance motivation. Overall, our model encourages researchers to assess key moderators of threat, examine threats at different levels of the self, and consider how experiences of threat at one level may impact other levels. By highlighting the flexibility of the self, researchers can test interventions that change threat cues in the environment, attenuate perceptions of threat, or help people cope with threat.
... First line of research supposes assessing the habitual use of specific emotion regulation strategies and investigating their effects on relationship satisfaction (Mazzuca et al., 2018;Ursu & Turliuc, 2022;Velotti, et al., 2016). The second line of research consists of assessing the effects of emotion regulation strategies on relationship satisfaction during conflict discussions (Bloch, et al., 2014;Finkel et al., 2013). ...
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Research shows that emotions and emotion regulation strategies are important variables for family functioning. The aim of the present article was to review the literature on the role of emotions and emotion regulation in couple relationships and parent-child interaction. The paper presents the most important theoretical models on emotions and family functioning and provides an overview of research investigating the association of positive emotions, negative emotions and emotion regulation with family relationships outcomes. First, we provided an overview on the functionality and social function of positive and negative emotions. Second, we investigated the role of positive and negative emotions in couple relationship and parent-child interaction. Third, we emphasized the role of specific intrapersonal and interpersonal emotion regulation strategies in couple relationships. Finally, we outlined the role of parents in child’s emotional development. The conclusions of our review support the importance of including emotions and emotion regulation strategies in counselling programs for couples and families.
Existing research demonstrates that poor sleep is associated with lower perceptions of relationship quality. Poor sleep also predicts more intense experiences of negative affect, anger in particular. Greater anger is also tied to worse relationship outcomes. The current research explored the interplay among these factors across three studies: one correlational, one longitudinal, and one quasi-experiment (Total N = 695). We hypothesized that poorer sleep quality would predict worsened perceived relationship quality and increased anger. We also hypothesized that increased anger would account for the association between poorer sleep and reduced perceived relationship quality. Our hypotheses were supported.
Perpetrators perceive their aggressive behaviors as more justified than victims do. This difference in perception may be due to each person relying heavily on their private thoughts and experiences, which effectively means that perpetrators and victims consider different information, and value that information differently, when judging whether an aggressive behavior is justified. The current manuscript contains four studies that tested these ideas. When judging whether an aggressive behavior is justified, perpetrators reported relying heavily on their thoughts and motives (Studies 1-3) and victims reported relying heavily on their experience of being harmed (Study 2). Further, as people considered the perpetrator's thoughts that led to the aggressive behavior, perpetrators, but not victims, became more confident in their judgments (Study 3). Finally, when judging their aggressive behavior, people felt their judgments were less biased than a "typical person's" judgments would be (Study 4). Collectively, these studies demonstrate some of the cognitive reasons that perpetrators and victims disagree on their judgments about whether an aggressive behavior is justified and, consequently, some of the cognitive barriers that need to be overcome for successful conflict resolution to occur.
Positive Psychology, focusing on character strengths and virtues, meaning in life, and transcendence, encourages students to reflect on their lives. The course frequently uses questionnaires and assigned activities to promote reflection and resilience. While mandated by many universities, course assessment in higher education is typically characterized by quantitative reductionism, which may not capture students' experiential learning. A phenomenological perspective on assessment is particularly valuable since it can highlight the experiential impact of a course not captured by conventional learning outcomes. This chapter, co-authored with students, illustrates the value of collaborative inquiry, resulting in qualitative findings depicting which elements of a Positive Psychology course were particularly meaningful and how students' perspectives and prior assumptions were challenged.
Attachment theory has become a dominant framework for understanding people's thoughts, feelings, and behaviors with respect to close relationships. People often want to and are motivated to improve their personalities and their relationships. Can attachment orientations change across the lifespan? And if so, what facilitates change? Will insecure people stay insecurely attached across their life or is there hope for change? The current review provides a bird's eye view of the research on how and why attachment orientations change in adulthood. We provide some descriptive information for how attachment changes across the lifespan and how much of this variation is attributable to early life experiences. Then, we focus on the processes that are thought to engender attachment‐related changes over time. Finally, we provide some directions for future research to help fill some holes in the field's understanding about attachment orientations and how they change over time.
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Recent randomized experiments have found that seemingly “small” social-psychological interventions in education—that is, brief exercises that target students’ thoughts, feelings, and beliefs in and about school—can lead to large gains in student achievement and sharply reduce achievement gaps even months and years later. These interventions do not teach students academic content but instead target students’ psychology, such as their beliefs that they have the potential to improve their intelligence or that they belong and are valued in school. When social-psychological interventions have lasting effects, it can seem surprising and even “magical,” leading people either to think of them as quick fixes to complicated problems or to consider them unworthy of serious consideration. The present article discourages both responses. It reviews the theoretical basis of several prominent social-psychological interventions and emphasizes that they have lasting effects because they target students’ subjective experiences in school, because they use persuasive yet stealthy methods for conveying psychological ideas, and because they tap into recursive processes present in educational environments. By understanding psychological interventions as powerful but context-dependent tools, educational researchers will be better equipped to take them to scale. This review concludes by discussing challenges to scaling psychological interventions and how these challenges may be overcome.
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Three studies evaluated the reliability and validity of the Investment Model Scale, an instrument designed to measure four constructs, including commitment level and three bases of dependence–satisfaction level, quality of alternatives, and investment size. In all three studies, reliability analyses revealed good internal consistency among items designed to measure each construct. Also, principal components analyses performed on scale items revealed evidence of four factors, with items designed to measure each construct loading on independent factors. Studies 2 and 3 examined associations of model variables with instruments measuring diverse qualities of relationships and assorted personal dispositions. As anticipated, Investment Model variables were moderately associated with other measures reflecting superior couple functioning (e.g., dyadic adjustment, trust level, inclusion of other in the self), and were essentially unrelated to measures assessing personal dispositions (e.g., need for cognition, self-esteem). In addition, Study 3 demonstrated that earlier measures of Investment Model variables predicted later levels of dyadic adjustment and later relationship status (persisted vs. ended). It is hoped that the existence of a reliable and valid Investment Model Scale will promote further research regarding commitment and interdependence in ongoing close relationships.
The quality of marital relationships continues to be the most widely studied topic in the field. Trends during the 1970s in research on marital quality and related concepts (happiness, satisfaction, adjustment, etc.) are summarized. The decade saw more husbands in samples, more attention to couples and joint assessment of husbands and wives, use of observational data collection techniques, greater attention to methodological and measurement issues, more use of multivariate statistics, greater awareness of issues pertaining to cross-sectional designs, fewer biases in the portrayal of male/female roles, attempts to build theory and synthesize the literature, growing interest in "dyads" as a more general form of marital relationships, and more research which is international in scope. Research, methodological, and theoretical contributions are evaluated, and some recommendations are made for the decade ahead.
Using a repeated cross-sectional design to trace marital success and failure in five American 10-year marriage cohorts from 1973 to 1994 reveals no convincing evidence of an increase in aggregate-level marital success at any duration in the first five decades after first marriage. The higher mean level of marital quality in late-term than in mid-term marriages shown by cross-sectional studies apparently results largely from cohort differences in marital success.
Change is constant in everyday life. Infants crawl and then walk, children learn to read and write, teenagers mature in myriad ways, and the elderly become frail and forgetful. Beyond these natural processes and events, external forces and interventions instigate and disrupt change: test scores may rise after a coaching course, drug abusers may remain abstinent after residential treatment. By charting changes over time and investigating whether and when events occur, researchers reveal the temporal rhythms of our lives. This book is concerned with behavioral, social, and biomedical sciences. It offers a presentation of two of today's most popular statistical methods: multilevel models for individual change and hazard/survival models for event occurrence (in both discrete- and continuous-time). Using data sets from published studies, the book takes you step by step through complete analyses, from simple exploratory displays that reveal underlying patterns through sophisticated specifications of complex statistical models.
Both common wisdom and findings from multiple areas of research suggest that it is helpful to understand and make meaning out of negative experiences. However, people’s attempts to do so often backfire, leading them to ruminate and feel worse. Here we attempt to shed light on these seemingly contradictory sets of findings by examining the role that self-distancing plays in facilitating adaptive self-reflection. We begin by briefly describing the “self-reflection paradox.” We then define self-distancing, present evidence from multiple levels of analysis that illustrate how this process facilitates adaptive self-reflection, and discuss the basic science and practical implications of this research.
Visual imagery plays a prominent role in mental simulations of past and future events: people tend to “see” events in their mind's eye when they think about them. When picturing events people often use their own first-person perspective, looking out at the situation through their own eyes. However, other times people use a third-person perspective, so that they see themselves in the image from the visual perspective an observer would have. This chapter presents a theoretical model proposing that imagery perspective functions to determine whether people understand events bottom-up, in terms of the phenomenology evoked by concrete features of the pictured situation (first-person), or top-down, in terms of abstractions that integrate the pictured event with its broader context (third-person). This model integrates existing findings and generates novel predictions that challenge widespread assumptions about the function that imagery perspective serves. We review a program of research that supports these predictions, demonstrating the role of imagery perspective in defining the experiential and conceptual facets of the self, determining emotional responses to recalled and imagined life events, and shaping forecasts of future behavior and emotion. We conclude by discussing how the proposed model helps to distinguish the visual dimension of perspective from other dimensions on which perspective may vary. We consider how this model connects with other theories concerning the self and event representation, and we explore the implications for classic and contemporary areas of social psychological inquiry including attribution, social perspective-taking, culture, emotional coping, and top-down versus bottom-up processing.
Most of the quantitative research on marital quality in the 1980s dealt with issues emphasized in earlier research, but on the average the 1980s studies were methodologically superior to the earlier ones. Debate and discussion during the decade led to some decline in conceptual confusion, and while the research produced only a modest increment in understanding of the causes and consequences of marital success, it laid the foundation for greater progress in the years to come.
Previous research suggests a U-shaped pattern of marital happiness over the life course, with happiness declining in the early years of marriage and rising in the later years. Most prior studies have been limited by the use of cross-sectional data or nonprobability samples. In contrast, the present study is based on data from a national, 17-year, 5-wave panel sample. Using cross-sectional data from the first wave, we replicate the U-shaped relationship between marital happiness and marital duration. In an analysis based on a fixed-effects pooled time-series model with multiple-wave panel data, we find declines in marital happiness at all marital durations and no support for an upturn in marital happiness in the later years. The relationship between marital happiness and marital duration is slightly curvilinear, with the steepest declines in marital happiness occurring during the earliest and latest years of marriage. When other life-course variables are controlled, a significant negative effect of marital duration on marital happiness remains. For most marriage cohorts, marital happiness declined more in the 1980s than in the 1990s, suggesting a period effect. This study provides evidence that the U-shaped pattern of marital happiness over the life course is an artifact of cross-sectional research and is not typical of U.S. marriages.