Accuracy and Bias in Newlywed Couples' Perceptions of Conflict Styles and the Association with Marital Satisfaction
Styles of handling conflict are highly consequential to marital success. The behavioral model predicts that spouses' accuracy in perceptions of each other will be associated with marital quality, whereas the benevolent perception model predicts that benevolent perceptions, even when objectively inaccurate, will be associated with marital quality. To investigate the role of perceptions of marital conflict styles, 194 couples married for less than five years completed self- and partner-reports of conflict styles and marital satisfaction. Results indicated that spouses were both accurate (i.e., seeing the self the same as one's partner sees the self) and biased (i.e., seeing the partner the same as one sees the self) in their perceptions of each others' conflict styles. Little support existed for the accuracy model of perception and marital satisfaction, but more consistent support was obtained for the benevolent perception model in which more positively toned perceptions, regardless of their consistency with partners' self-perceptions, were associated with higher marital satisfaction. Results of actor-partner interdependence analyses revealed numerous actor effects for conflict styles and satisfaction, and partner effects for the styles of conflict engagement and withdrawal and partners' marital satisfaction.