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Examining Processes That Reflect Heterogeneity in Maritally Satisfied Couples

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In the mid-1970s, social scientists began observing marital dyad conversations in laboratory settings with the hope of determining which observable features best discriminate couples who report being either satisfied or

In the mid-1970s, social scientists began observing marital dyad conversations in laboratory settings with the hope of determining which observable features best discriminate couples who report being either satisfied or unsatisfied with their relationship. These studies continued until about a decade ago when, in addition to increasing laboratory costs slowing the pace of new data collection, researchers realized that distressed couples were easier to quantitatively describe than nondistressed couples. Specifically, distressed couples exhibit rigid patterns of negativity whereas couples who report being maritally satisfied show minimal rigidity in the opposite direction \u2014 positivity. This was, and is, a theoretical dilemma: how can clinicians understand and eventually modify distressed relationships when the behavior of satisfied couples are less patterned, less predictable and more diverse? A recent study by Griffin and Li (2015), using contemporary machine learning techniques, reanalyzed existing marital interaction data and found that, contrary to expectation and existing theory, nondistressed couples should be further subdivided into two groups \u2014 those who are predictably positive or neutral and those who interact using diverse and varying levels of positive and negative behaviors. The latter group is the focus of this thesis. Using these recent findings as discussion points, I review how the unexpected behaviors in this novel group can maintain and possibly perpetuate marital satisfaction.

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  • 2015-05

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In their shoes: impact of emotions on marital satisfaction, communication, and technology in spouses of deployed military

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Separation from a loved one is a highly stressful event. The range and intensity of emotions accompanying such a separation arguably are amplified when one's spouse deploys. This thesis examines

Separation from a loved one is a highly stressful event. The range and intensity of emotions accompanying such a separation arguably are amplified when one's spouse deploys. This thesis examines at-home spouses (AHSs) of deployed military and how emotion, marital satisfaction, and communication are impacted throughout the deployment cycle. Additionally, I explore technology as a possible coping mechanism to help AHSs adapt and overcome stressfulness of deployment. One hundred sixty-six married females with a partner currently deployed, anticipating deployment, or recently returned from deployment completed an on-line survey. It was predicted AHSs would experience specific emotions during each phase, categorized as "anticipatory," (e.g., anger, worry) "absence" (e.g., lonely, sad) or "post" (e.g., happiness, relief); marital satisfaction also was predicted to be higher among spouses whose partner recently returned from deployment versus was deployed or anticipating deployment. Data showed AHSs whose partner was anticipating or currently deployed reported more "anticipatory" and "absence" emotions than AHSs with a recently returned partner. The former two groups did not differ in these emotions. AHSs with a recently returned partner reported more "post" emotions than the other two groups. Marital satisfaction did not differ based on deployment status. It was also predicted that among AHSs with a currently deployed partner, less negative emotion upon deployment would be associated with more frequent communication during deployment. Data showed AHSs who reported less negative emotion upon deployment engaged in more frequent communication with their deployed partner. Lastly, I predicted AHSs whose partners are currently deployed and who prefer modes of communication allowing direct contact (e.g., Skype) will experience less negative emotions than AHSs who prefer indirect contact (e.g., e-mail). Data showed reports of negative emotion did not differ based on preference for direct versus indirect communication. Therefore, negative emotions may develop and persist before and during deployment, but when the partner returns home, spouses do experience a rebound of positive emotions. Additionally, emotions at the time of deployment may be useful in predicting spouses' communication frequency during deployment. Findings aim to provide knowledge of family life during separation and explore technology as a possible coping mechanism for AHSs.

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  • 2011