Terrible twos

Kevin Lewis

October 20, 2018

Communication that is maladaptive for middle-class couples is adaptive for socioeconomically disadvantaged couples
Jaclyn Ross et al.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, forthcoming


Demands for change in a relationship, particularly when met by behavioral withdrawal, foreshadow declines in relationship satisfaction. Yet demands can give partners opportunities to voice concerns, and withdrawal can serve to de-escalate conflict, stabilizing satisfaction instead (e.g., Overall, Fletcher, Simpson, & Sibley, 2009). We aim to reconcile these competing possibilities by arguing that withdrawal in response to requests for change will be detrimental among couples who possess the social, educational, and economic capital needed to address these requests, whereas withdrawal in response to partner demands will be constructive among couples with fewer resources for making the requested changes. Study 1 (N = 515 couples; 18-month follow-up) replicates the harmful effects of observed demand/withdraw communication on changes in wives’ satisfaction among relatively affluent couples, while documenting benefits of demand/withdraw communication among relatively disadvantaged couples. Using 4 waves of observational data, Study 2 (N = 431 couples; 9-, 18- and 27-month follow-ups) shows that socioeconomic risk moderates the covariation between the demand/withdraw pattern and wives’ relationship satisfaction, with higher levels of withdrawal again proving to be beneficial when socioeconomic risk is high. In both studies, behavioral withdrawal by men appears to be maladaptive when couples have resources and capacities to enact desired changes, but may be adaptive when those resources and capacities are lacking. Efforts to change couple communication without appreciating the larger social and economic contexts of those behaviors may be counterproductive.

The Causal Influence of Perceived Social Norms on Intimate Partner Violence Perpetration: Converging Cross-Sectional, Longitudinal, and Experimental Support for a Social Disinhibition Model
Mazheruddin Mulla et al.
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, forthcoming


Across three studies, we develop a model of the direct and indirect paths through which the perceived prevalence (perceived descriptive norms [PDN]) of intimate partner violence (IPV) among peers may influence individuals’ likelihood of engaging in IPV. Study 1 replicated and extended previous cross-sectional research by demonstrating a positive longitudinal association between PDN and subsequent IPV perpetration. Study 2 further showed the influence of PDN on IPV perpetration to be mediated through its relation to perceived peer acceptance of IPV (perceived injunctive norms [PIN]), which in turn predicted personal IPV acceptance. Study 3 built on this model using an experimental paradigm to show that increasing PDN leads to corresponding increases in PIN and, in turn, personal IPV acceptance, which both predicted IPV perpetration. Furthermore, the effects of PIN on personal IPV acceptance and IPV propensity were strongest for dominance-oriented individuals. Results bear important implications for social norms-based interventions for IPV.

Cohabitation Experience and Cohabitation's Association With Marital Dissolution
Michael Rosenfeld & Katharina Roesler
Journal of Marriage and Family, forthcoming

Method: A harmonized data set of 6 waves of the retrospective National Surveys of Family Growth (with 216,455 couple‐years) is analyzed with discrete time‐event history methods to predict marital dissolution. The data are nationally representative of women aged 44 years and younger in first marriages in the United States for 1970 to 2015. Different criteria for model selection are discussed.

Results: The results show that in the first year of marriages, couples who cohabited before marriage have a lower marital dissolution rate than couples who did not cohabit before marriage, a difference that may be due to the practical experience of cohabitation, as couples who have cohabited learned to adapt to each other. We find that the association between marital dissolution and premarital cohabitation has not changed over time or across marriage cohorts. The benefits of cohabitation experience in the first year of marriage has misled scholars into thinking that the most recent marriage cohorts will not experience heightened marital dissolution due to premarital cohabitation.

The Changing Nature of the Association Between Student Loan Debt and Marital Behavior in Young Adulthood
Fenaba Addo, Jason Houle & Sharon Sassler
Journal of Family and Economic Issues, forthcoming


In this study, we compared young adults from the NLSY 1979 and the NLSY 1997 to examine how the relationship between student debt and the likelihood of marrying changed across cohorts, in light of the growing acceptance of non-marital cohabitation. In the 1997 cohort, student loan debt among college-attending young adults was associated with delays in marriage, but not in the 1979 cohort. Among men, the positive association between education debt and marriage in the 1979 cohort was no longer evident for the 1997 cohort of young men. Our findings provide further evidence that rising student debt is reshaping relationship formation among college-going youth, and that as cohabitation has become more widespread, social and economic disparities in who marries without cohabiting first have increased.

Pursuing Sex with an Ex: Does It Hinder Breakup Recovery?
Stephanie Spielmann, Samantha Joel & Emily Impett
Archives of Sexual Behavior, forthcoming


The present research used longitudinal methods to test whether pursuing sex with an ex-partner hinders breakup recovery. Participants completed a month-long daily diary immediately following a breakup, as well as a two-month follow-up (Study 1). Daily analyses revealed positive associations between trying to have sex with an ex-partner and emotional attachment to the ex-partner, but not other aspects of breakup recovery, such as distress, intrusive thoughts, or negative affect. Longitudinal changes from day to day, and over 2 months, revealed that pursuing sex with an ex was not a predictor of breakup recovery over time. To address the limitation that Study 1 only assessed attempted sexual pursuits, Study 2 explored associations between pursuit of, and actual engagement in, sexual activities with ex-partners. Results revealed that most sexual pursuits were successful, and success rates were not associated with breakup recovery. Findings challenge common beliefs about potential harm of pursuing sex with an ex.

Broadening your horizons: Self-expanding activities promote desire and satisfaction in established romantic relationships
Amy Muise et al.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, forthcoming 


In the early stages of romantic relationships, sexual desire is often intense, but over time, as partners get to know each other, desire tends to decline. Low sexual desire has negative implications for relationship satisfaction and maintenance. Self-expansion theory suggests that engaging in novel activities with a long-term romantic partner can reignite feelings of passion from the early stages of a relationship. Across 3 studies using dyadic, daily experience, longitudinal, and experimental methods, we find evidence for our central prediction that engaging in self-expanding activities with a partner is associated with higher sexual desire. In turn, we found that higher desire fueled by self-expansion is associated with greater relationship satisfaction. Self-expansion, through sexual desire, is also associated with an increased likelihood that couples will engage in sex, and when they do engage in sex, they feel more satisfied with their sexual experiences. We also demonstrate that the benefits of self-expansion for relationship satisfaction are sustained over time, and that the effects cannot be attributed solely to increases in positive affect, time spent interacting with the partner or closeness during the activity. Implications for self-expansion theory and sexual desire maintenance in relationships are discussed.


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