Marital interaction and satisfaction: a longitudinal view

J Consult Clin Psychol. 1989 Feb;57(1):47-52. doi: 10.1037//0022-006x.57.1.47.


Two longitudinal studies of marital interaction were conducted using observational coding of couples attempting to resolve a high-conflict issue. We found that a different pattern of results predicts con-current marital satisfaction than predicts change in marital satisfaction over 3 years. Results suggest that some marital interaction patterns, such as disagreement and anger exchanges, which have usually been considered harmful to a marriage, may not be harmful in the long run. These patterns were found to relate to unhappiness and negative interaction at home concurrently, but they were predictive of improvement in marital satisfaction longitudinally. However, three interaction patterns were identified as dysfunctional in terms of longitudinal deterioration: defensiveness (which includes whining), stubborness, and withdrawal from interaction. Hypotheses about gender differences in roles for the maintenance of marital satisfaction are presented.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect
  • Conflict, Psychological
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Marriage*
  • Personal Satisfaction*
  • Problem Solving
  • Psychological Tests