We investigated first-person plural pronoun use (we-talk) by health-compromised smokers and their spouses as a possible implicit marker of adaptive, problem-resolving communal processes. Twenty couples in which one or both partners used tobacco despite one of them having a heart or lung problem participated in up to 10 sessions of a smoking cessation intervention designed to promote communal coping, where partners define smoking as "our" problem, rather than "your" problem or "my" problem, and take collaborative action to solve it. We used the Linguistic Inquiry Word Count automatic text analysis program to tabulate first-person pronoun use by both partners from transcripts of a pretreatment marital interaction task and later intervention sessions. Results indicated that pretreatment we-talk by the patient's spouse predicted whether the patient remained abstinent 12 months after quitting, and residualized change in we-talk by both partners during the course of intervention (controlling for baseline levels) predicted cessation outcomes as well. These findings add to evidence regarding the prognostic significance of partner we-talk for patient health and provide preliminary documentation of communal coping as a possible mechanism of change in couple-focused intervention.
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