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Negative representations of the self/spouse and marital distress

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The link between marital distress and negative representations of both the self and the spouse was examined with data from an initial sample of 538 married couples studied over the first four years of marriage (Study 1) and 98 of these couples studied in their tenth year of marriage (Study 2). Findings from Study 1 indicated that, for both husbands and wives, representations of the self and representations of the spouse accounted for unique variability in distress. Across spouses, representations of the spouse accounted for more of the variability in distress than did representations of the self. Cross–spouse effects were especially pronounced for husbands such that their distress was linked to wives’ representations. Findings from Study 2 with self/spouse measures anchored to the marital context replicated this pattern. Findings support the view that marital distress is uniquely influenced by models of both the self and the spouse, that representations of the self and the spouse are dynamic relationship schemas, that models of the self and the spouse can be meaningfully assessed within the marital context, and that negative representations of the spouse—particularly those of wives—are especially diagnostic of marital distress.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Wright State University, USA

Publication date: December 1, 2003

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