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Marital conflict: A longitudinal study

Dissertation
Author: Faith Troupe
Abstract:
Conflict is a normal occurrence in marriage, but when poorly managed can lead to divorce. The purpose of this research was to understand marital conflict as it changes over time. The researcher examined marital conflict from an Ecosystemic/Person-Process-Context-Time (PPCT) theoretical perspective and longitudinal design. Using three waves of data from the National Survey of Families and Households, the researcher used a sample of 289 couples to examine conflict resolution techniques and the effect of depression, having children, couple's difference in age, income, and race on marital conflict. Through multiple regression analysis, the researcher found arguing heatedly had a negative effect and discussing conflict calmly a positive effect on conflict over time. Overall, arguing heated had the greatest effect on marital conflict over time. These findings have significant implications for marriage and family therapists working with couples who are dealing with conflict. The implications and recommendations regarding conflict with married couples are discussed.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

List of Tables ................................................................................................ vii Abstract ...................................................................................................... viii

1. INTRODUCTION .......................................................................................... 1

Background of Problem .............................................................................. 1 Theoretical Perspective ............................................................................... 2 Statement of Problem .................................................................................. 3 Research Questions ..................................................................................... 3 Definition of Key Terms ............................................................................. 4 Assumptions ............................................................................................... 4 Delimitations ............................................................................................... 5

2. REVIEW OF LITERATURE ......................................................................... 6

Ecosystemc/ Person-Process-Context-Time Model ................................... 6 Marriage ................................................................................................ 7 Marital Conflict ........................................................................................... 8 Review of Previous NSFH Studies ............................................................. 16 Summary ................................................................................................ 18

3. METHDOLOGY ............................................................................................ 20

Secondary Data with Longitudinal Design ................................................. 20 National Study of Families and Households ............................................... 21 Research Questions ..................................................................................... 22 Sample Selection and Characteristics ......................................................... 24 Derived Variables ....................................................................................... 24 Analysis of Data .......................................................................................... 29

4. RESULTS ................................................................................................ 32

Summary ................................................................................................ 43

5. DISCUSSION ................................................................................................ 44

Summary of the Study ................................................................................ 44 Limitations ................................................................................................ 49 Future Research Directions ......................................................................... 50 Implications fo r Practitioners ...................................................................... 52 Conclusion ................................................................................................ 53

APPENDICES ................................................................................................ 54

vi

A Human Subjects Committee Approval Memorandum .......................... 54 B Variables of Interest .............................................................................. 57

REFERENCES ................................................................................................ 74

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH .............................................................................. 83

vii

LIST OF TABLES Table 1: Item Descriptions of Frequency of Marital Conflict ............................. 25 Table 2: Income and Age Statistics ..................................................................... 26 Table 3: Item Descriptions of Depression ........................................................... 27 Table 4: Item Descriptions of Dealing with Conflict .......................................... 29 Table 5: Correlations Between DV and IVs at Wave 1 ....................................... 32 Table 6: Correlations Between DV and IVs at Wave 2 ....................................... 33 Table 7: Correlations Between DV and IVs at Wave 3 ....................................... 34 Table 8: Correlations Between Indepe ndent and Dependent Variables .............. 36 Table 9: Multiple Regression with Deleted Missing ........................................... 39 Table 10: Multiple Regression with Mean Substitution ...................................... 41 Table 12: Summary of Standard and Stepwise Regression…………………..…. 43

viii

ABSTRACT Conflict is a normal occurrence in marriage, but when poorly managed can lead to divorce. The purpose of this research was to understand marital conflict as it changes over time. The researcher examined marital conflict from an Ecosystemic/ Person-Process-Context-Time (PPCT) theoretical perspective and longitudinal design. Using three waves of data from the National Survey of Families and Households, the researcher used a sample of 289 couples to examine conflict resolution techniques and the effect of depression, having children, couple’s difference in age, income, and race on marital conflict. Through multiple regression analysis, the researcher found arguing heatedly had a negative effect and discussing conflict calmly a positive effect on conflict over time. Overall, arguing heated had the greatest effect on marital conflict over time. These findings have significant implications for marriage and family therapists working with couples who are dealing with conflict. The implications and recommendations regarding conflict with married couples are discussed.

  1

CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION

All marriages face certain transitions that occur throughout the span of the relationship. Some of these transitions includ e getting married, career changes, having children, the last child leaving home, and retiring from work. These tr ansitions can be a sour ce of conflict within families and marriages (Storaasli & Markman, 1990). This study was designed to increase understanding of marital conflict using a longitu dinal design to examine changes in marital conflict over time. For the purpose of this study, marital conflict will be discussed and assessed in relation to the frequency of conflict and how it is handled by couples using secondary data from the National Survey of Families and Households. Background of Problem Some theorists believe that conflict is a normal occurrence for couples (White & Klein, 2002). Conflict is often seen as an inevitable phenomenon that occu rs within all relationships. Storaasli and Markman (1990) base d their research on the noti on that the transitions and challenges that occur within a marriage present pr oblems that are inevitable and often lead to conflict. Researchers have been able to identify associations between mar ital conflict and mental, physical, and overall family health (Impe tt & Peplau, 2006; Burman & Mangolin, 1992). Although married individuals are healthier than unmarried indi viduals (Myers, 2000; Burman & Mangolin, 1992), marital conflict is associated with poorer health and with specific illness such as cancer, cardiac disease, and chronic pain (Impett & Peplau, 2006; Schmaling & Sher, 1997). Researchers have also linked marital conflict to me ntal health related issu es such as depression and anxiety (Whitton, Olmos-Gall o, Stanley, Prado, Kline, St. Pe ters, et al., 2007; Marchand & Hock, 2000). What is not evident in these studies is the impact of time on conflict in marriages. More specifically, how marital conflict change s over time and what impact children and depression have on conflict over time.

  2 Theoretical Perspective In order to explore the possibl e changes of marital conflict, Ecosystemic Theory/ Process Person Context Time (PPCT) Model was selected as the theoretical framework for this research. Ecological Systems Theory Ecological Systems Theory provides a framew ork for looking at how contextual factors (e.g. income and race) may impact a marriage. It provides a framework fo r viewing the marital relationship as a system embedded in a larger network of close re lationships and it addresses the impact that time can have on a marital rela tionship with the Process-Person-Context-Time (PPCT) model. The ecological environment is conceived as a nested arrangement of concentric structures: microsystem, mesosystem, exosys tem, and macrosystem (Bronfenbrenner, 1979; Bubolz & Sontag, 1993). The microsystem is a patte rn of activities, role s, and interpersonal relations experienced by the de veloping person in a given setting with particular and material characteristics. The mesosystem comprises the interrelations among two or more settings in which the developing person actively participates (such as for a child, the relations among home, school, and neighborhood peer group; for an a dult among family, work, and social life). The exosystem refers to one or more settings that do not involve the developing person as an active participant, but in which events occur that affect, or are affected by, what happens in the setting containing the developing person. The macrosystem refers to consistencies, in the form and content of lower-order systems (micro-, meso-, and e xo-) that exist, or could exist, at the level of the subculture or the culture as a whole, along with any belief systems or ideology and underlying such consistencies. Process-Person-Context-Time Model In the process-person-context-time model, process comprises of multiple interactions of the individual within their co ntext (Bronfenbrenner & Morris, 1998; Lerner, Rothbaum, Buolos, Castellino, 2002). The internal envi ronment of the individual can also influence the adjustments made by an individual. The person is defined as a biological enti ty with specific biopsychosocial features such as genetic make-up, cognitive a nd behavioral characte ristics, knowledge, and emotional abilities. The context is defined as the nested levels of the micro-, meso-, exo-, and macrosystems that the individual inte racts with directly or indirectly. Time is defined as the chronosystem, which is a part of the ecological model and consists of va rious concepts of time

  3 (Bronfenbrenner & Morris, 1998). W ithin this model, the concept of time affects all systems and levels of adjustment within the individual. Statement of Problem Using the ecosystemic/ PPCT model, the current study explored how couples resolve conflict and the effect of having children and depression on marital conflict over time. Based on the process-person-context-model, there are multi-level variables that may influence marital conflict. Researchers have found transitions that occur during a marriage that may impact marital conflict (i.e., having children, onset of pubert y, retirement) (Whiteman, McHale, & Crouter, 2007; Hatch, & Bulcroft, 2004; Crohan, 1996; Storaas li, & Markman, 1990). The focus of this research is to examine the impact of characteri stics of the individuals (i.e., age, depression, and having children) within the marriage, the interacti ons (i.e., marital conflict and conflict resolution techniques) of those individuals, and contextual variables (i.e., income, race) over time. In order to better understand the impact of these variables on marital conflict, th is study was designed with a longitudina l perspective. Research Questions The purpose of the current research was to explore how couples re solve conflict and the effect of having children and depression on marital c onflict over time. This research also assessed the impact of partner’s difference in ag e, couple’s race, and couple’s income on marital conflict over time. From this perspective spec ific research questions were developed: 1)

Is there a change in the frequency of conflict for married couples over time? 2)

Is there a change in conflict re solution techniques over time? 3)

What is the effect of conflict resolution techniques on the fre quency of conflict over time? 4)

What is the effect of having children on the frequency of conflict over time? 5)

What is the effect of depression on the frequency of conflict over time? Definition of Key Terms The National Survey of Families and Households (NSFH) – The NSFH is a rich collection of data gathered from families at three separate times from 1987-2002 (Sweet, & Bumpass, 1996; Sweet, & Bumpass, 2002; Sweet , Bumpass, & Call, 1988). Information regarding the families’ life histories was colle cted including: the respondents’ family living arrangements in childhood, departures and returns to the parental home, histories of marriage,

  4 cohabitation, education, fertility, and employ ment. This dataset also includes detailed descriptions of past and current living arrangements and other ch aracteristics and experiences, as well as the analysis of the cons equences of earlier patterns on current states, marital and parenting relationships, kin contact, a nd economic and psychological well-being. Wave 1, Wave 2, and Wave 3 – Wave refers to the r ound of data collection in a longitudinal panel study. The NSFH included thre e waves of data collection: Wave 1 was collected between 1987 and 88, Wave 2 was co llected between 1992 and 1994, and Wave 3 was collected between 2001 and 2002. Primary/ main respondents - Principal researchers for the NSFH selected randomly either male or female main householders as primar y respondents at Wave 1. The primary respondents identified at Wave 1 remained throughout Wave 2 and Wave 3. Secondary respondents - Secondary respondents are the spou ses or partners of the primary respondents selected at Wave 1. Th e researchers collected data from the same spouses and/ or partners through Wave s 2 and Wave 3. Conflict -

Conflict has been variously defined as disagreement, clashes, and discordance in interests or ideas (White & Klein, 2002). In this study, conflict was measured by the respondents at Waves 1, 2, and 3. The respondents re ported on the frequency of disagreements in specific areas and use of various techni ques for dealing with disagreements. Assumptions Assumptions are statements that are presumed to be fact, or taken as a given in the research process. Therefore, these are the assumptions that have guided this research. -

The current research used an ecosystemic re search model that assumes on a basic level that all humans are in constant interaction wi th their environment and that both entities exert influence on the othe r in a continuous manner. -

A basic premise of this research is th at a thorough understandi ng of how marriages develop and change would be important in its own right and woul d contribute to the prevention and treatment of marital dysfunction. -

An understanding of marital development is best achieved with data collection in longitudinal research designs. -

The respondents responded honestly to the in terviews and self-report questionnaires in the National Survey of Families and H ouseholds at Wave 1 through Wave 3.

  5 -

The interview questions and se lf-report questionnaires in th e NSFH were developed and provided reliably and trustfully. -

The interviews were conducted appropriately by trained interviewers who followed the prescribed procedures developed by the Center for Demography and Ecology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. -

The answers and reports from the respondent s were coded and entered accurately by the Center for Demography and Ecology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. -

The research team of the NSFH has made attempts to maintain the same households Wave 1 through Wave 3 in order to reduce the attrition rate. Delimitations The following limits were set for this research: 1.

This study was limited to the sample of house holds used to participate in the National Survey of Families and Households. 2.

This study was limited to married main respondents and matched spouses who participated in Waves 1, 2, and 3. 3.

This study was limited to main respondents and spouse who reported having no children at Wave 1. 4.

This study was limited in the measurements used to measure the variables of interest.  

  6

CHAPTER 2 LITERATURE REVIEW

Introduction Conflict has been defined in various wa ys, such as disagreement, clashes, and discordance in interests or ideas (White & Kl ein, 2002). This chapter will begin with a brief discussion on Ecosystemic/ Person-Process-C ontext-Time (PPCT) model. Following is a discussion on marriage, marital conflict and provid e a brief overview of recent literature related to the variables that influence marital conflict. Ecosystemic/ Person-Process-Context-Time Model The focus of the Person-Process-Context-Ti me (PPCT) model within the ecological theory is to understand the dynamic relations hip between a developi ng individual and the integrated, multilevel ecology of human development. The innate characteristics of an individual serve as indirect producers of development, wher e development is the process and the product or intended outcome (Bronfenbrenner & Morris, 1998; Lerner, 1991). Bronfenbrenner and Morris (1998 ) believed it is imperative to collect and examine data that reflect on as many environm ents that influence interactio ns in order to understand the developmental, beliefs, attitudes, and behavior of individuals or organi sms. The process-person- context-time model provides a cont ext for the analysis of variati ons in the developmental process and outcomes as a joint function of the characte ristics of the environment and of the person. Lerner (1991) argued for a “devel opmental contextual” orientation. He believed that an empirical focus on individual differences and contextual variations on the changi ng person was necessary for an adequate appreciation of human life. Using the PPCT model as a theoretical f oundation, the current research explored how couples resolve conflict and the effect of having children and de pression on marita l conflict over time. Demographic variables (income, age, and race ) were also included in the analyses. In order to gain an understanding of how marital conflict changes over time, the researcher explored variables from various levels. At the person level, the researcher explored depression and age.

  7 The dependent variable, marital conflict and conflict resolution techniques are process level variables. At the context level, the researcher explored couple’ s income and race of the couple. In order to incorporate time into the current resear ch, the researcher used data collected at three different times over 15 years. Marriage In most societies, the institution of marriag e is considered the best way to ensure the orderly raising of children (G ardiner & Kosmitski, 2005). Resear chers have found people believe the institution of marriage offers intimacy, comm itment, friendship, affection, sexual fulfillment, companionship, and an opportunity for emotional gr owth, as well as new sources of identity and self-esteem (Gardiner & Kosmitski, 2005; Myers, 2000). There have been some shifts in those who marry over the past few years. The typical “marrying age” has increased in in dustrialized countries (Steil, 2000). Thirty to fifty years ago, most people married in or before their early tw enties. In the United States, in 2003, the median age of first-time bridegrooms was about 27 and of first-time brides, 25 – a rise of about four years since the 1970s (Field s, 2004; Kreider, 2005). Researchers have shown that married people tend to be happier than unmarried people (Myers, 2000). However, those in unhappy ma rriages are less happy than those who are unmarried or divorced. Amato, Johnson, Booth, a nd Rogers (2003) found marital happiness was positively affected by increased economic resources, equal decision making, nontraditional gender attitudes, and support fo r the norm of lifelong marriage. Th e authors also found marital happiness negatively affected by premarital coha bitation, extramarital affairs, wives’ job demands, and wives’ longer working hours. Furt her, researchers found a negative relationship between husbands’ share of housework and mari tal satisfaction among husbands but a positive relationship among wives. Van Laningham, Johnson, and Amato, (2001) conducted a study to test the assumption that marital happiness over the lif e course occurs in a U-shape pattern. The assumption is that marital happiness declines during the early years of marriage, stabilizes during the middle years, and then increases again in th e later years. In a longitudinal study, Van Laningham, Johnson, and Amato (2001) found little evidence that happiness increases in the later years. Instead, the authors found marital happiness e ither declines continuously or flattens after a long period of time. Previti and Amato (2003), in a later l ongitudinal study, explored individuals’ personal

  8 accounts of why they stay married. The authors found those who perceived the cohesiveness of their marriage as based on rewards, such as l ove, respect, trust, communication, compatibility, and commitment to the partner, were more likely to be happy in marriage and to remain married after 14 years than people who referred to barr iers to leaving the marriage such as children, religious beliefs, financial inte rdependence, and commitment to the institution of marriage (Previti & Amato, 2003). The area of marital happiness and satisfaction has been studied from various theoretical perspectives and looking at multiple variables. Conflict is one of the many variables that researchers have linked to marital satisfacti on and happiness. It has received widespread attention because of its links to relationship dissatisfact ion (Stanley, Markman, & Whitton, 2002), divorce (Amato & Hohmann-Marriott, 2 007), domestic violence (Bookwala, Sobin, & Zdaniuk, 2005), functioning at work (Amat o, Johnson, Booth, & Rogers, 2003; Voydanoff, 2004), parenting, (Crohan, 1996; McLoyd, Cau ce, Takeuchi, & Wilson, 2000) and child outcomes (Buehler & Gerard, 2002; Kelly, 2000). The following is a discussion on marital conflict and specific variables th at have been linked to it. Marital Conflict Sixty-one percent of divorced individuals c ite “too much arguing as a reason for divorce (Johnson, Stanley, Glenn, Amato, Nock, Markman, et al., 2002). As a resu lt, marital conflict (poorly managed conflict) presents a risk fo r marital dissatisfaction and future divorce (Clements, Stanley, & Markman, 2004). Inter-p ersonal conflict has been defined as an interaction between persons expressing opposing in terests, views, or opinions. This study was designed to increase understanding of marital conflict over time using a longitudinal design. According to Bronfenbrenner (2001) to demonstrat e that human developmen t has occurred, it is necessary to establish that a change produced in the person’s concepti ons and/ or activities carries over to other settings a nd other times. For the purpose of th is study, marital conflict will be discussed and assessed using the Ecosystemic Theory/ Process Person Context Time Model. Some theorists and researchers believe that conflict is a normal occurrence for couples (Kline, Pleasant, Whitton & Markman, 2006; Wh ite & Klein, 2002; Farrington & Chertok, 1993). Conflict is often seen as inevitable phenomenon that occu rs within all relationships (White & Klein, 2002). Within the scope of resear ch, some have made the distinction between overt and covert conflict , signifying that conflict is not always expressed outwardly (Kline, et al

  9 2006; Fincham, & Beach, 1999). Most researchers have studied the more overt displays of conflict such as disagreements, arguments, verbal aggression, and physical violence (Kline, et al 2006). Covert displays of conflic t are more difficult to measure and thus difficult to assess and rarely studied. For the purpose of this study, the researcher examin ed those displays of conflict that are overt and outwardly expressed. Conflict is not always viewed as a negativ e phenomenon within re lationships (White & Klein, 2002). It is the way in which couples deal with or manage their conflict that can have more of a negative impact on the relationship (G ottman & Silver, 1999). Couples have different styles of conflict. Some avoid fights, others allo w the conflict to escalate, and some are able to talk out their differences and fi nd a compromise without raising their voices. No one style is better than the other—as long as the style works for both pe ople (Gottman & Silver, 1999). Based on this, researchers have focused more attention on how couples resolve conflict rather than if conflict exists and the frequency of it. Researchers have shown that negative affect (e.g., anger, disgust, sadness, fear) in positive, ne utral (i.e., events of the day), and conflictual couple interactions was related to low marital quality (Adler-B aeder, Higginbotham, & Lamke, 2004). Independently, aggressive, confrontational behaviors a nd nonresponsive, dismissive behaviors were corrosive factors that diminish the quality of ma rriage and are predictive of a decline in marital satisfaction. However, the co-occurrence of these de manding and withdrawing behaviors are more predictive of lower marital satisfaction than were congruent patterns of negative behaviors (Adler-Baeder , Higginbotham, & Lamke, 2004). Destructive communication or ne gative interaction between pa rtners has been linked to lower relationship satisfaction and high rate s of divorce or break-up (Stanley, Markman, & Whitton, 2002; Gottman & Notarius, 2000; Karn ey & Bradbury, 1995). Kirby, Baucom, and Peterman (2005) found less negative attribut ional and communication responses to unmet intimacy needs beneficial for overall intimacy satisfaction and relati onship satisfaction. In addition, more positive communicat ion responses contributed to greater intimacy satisfaction. Stanley, Markman, and Whitton (2002) found that how couples argue is more related to divorce potential than what they argued about. Couples differ in the quality and quantity of conflict and this could change with time as the roles within the marital relationship cha nge. Schneewind and Gerhard (2002) explored the relationship between couples’ st able personality variables as sociated with interpersonal

  10 competencies and marital satisfact ion with conflict resolution style as the mediating factor. Their study included eighty-three newlywed couples an d data collection over 5 years. The authors found conflict resolution styles appear to form during the firs t year of marriage and are habituated thereafter. Researchers have also found early in marriage, newlyweds negotiate expectations for sex and intimacy; establish communication and decisi on-making patterns, and balance expectations about marital and job respons ibilities (Knudson-Martin & Mahoney, 1998; Burke & Cast, 1997). During this time couples also come to some agreement about childbearing and how they will handle and budget money (Knudson-Martin & Mahoney, 1998; Burke & Cast, 1997). When children are present, role making involves negotiation about parent ing roles. Role making in new marriages involves creating, by means of communi cation and negotiation, id entities as married persons (Rotenburg, Schaut, & O’Connor, 1993). Storaasli and Markman (1990) examined relati onship problems in the early stages of marriage using a longitudinal de sign. They found before marri age, couples reported money, jealousy, and relatives as points of conflict. Early in their marriag e and just after the birth of a first child, the same couples reported money, sex, and communication as top issues, indicating that areas of conflict likely change with re lationship development. Stanley, Markman, and Whitton (2002) investigated communication, conflict, and commitment among married and cohabiting partners. They found for first time ma rriages, money was the top issue for conflict followed by children. Also, how couples argue was mo re related to divorce potential than what they argue about. The authors as sessed negative patterns of in teraction (i.e., little arguments escalate into ugly fights, criticizing/ belittling,w ithdrawing) that have been associated with relationship failure. The author s also found couples who argue about money tended to have higher levels of negative communication and conf lict than other couples. Mackey and O’Brien (1998) explored how couples cope with marital c onflict from the early years of their marriage to 20 years later. The focus of this research wa s on conflict management styles and gender and ethnicity influences on coping st yles. They found major conflict declined after children had grown to maturity as well as gender and ethnic ity influences, which will be discussed later. To understand the types of problems couples experience at midlife, Henry and Miller (2004) assessed marital problems at this st age. They found most common problems were

  11 financial matters, ways of dealing with ch ildren, and sexual matters. Values, commitment, spiritual matters, and violence were the least common problem areas. In order to better understand marital conflict wi thin a marriage, it is necessary to look at the factors that may impact marital conflict from various levels. Based on the PPCT model, the analysis of variations in the developmental pr ocess and outcomes should occur as a joint function of the characteristics of the environment and of the person. Bronfenbrenner and Morris (1998) emphasized understanding the developmental, beliefs , attitudes, and behavior of individuals or organisms by collecting and examining data that reflect on as many environments that influence their interactions. Lerner (1991) argued for a “developmental contextual” orientation where he believed that an empirical focus on individual di fferences and contextual variations on the changing person was necessary for an ad equate appreciation of human life. Consistent with PPCT theoretical framework, th is research explored variables associated with marital conflict: conflict resolution techniqu es, depression, and having children. At the level of the person, the following is a review of previous research related to the influence of depression and age on conflict. Depression and Marital Conflict The quality of the marital relationship, incl uding how conflicts are handled has important implications for spouses’ daily lives and ps ychological adjustment (Papp, Goeke-Morey, & Cummings, 2007; Bradury, Fincham, & Beach, 2000). Previously researchers have found depression to be a factor associated with marita l conflict. Depression has also been assessed for its predictability and outcome re lated to influence on marital satis faction. Some researchers have noted the bi-directional influence of depression on marital satisfaction (Jones, Beach, Fincham, 2006; Beach & O’Mahen, 2000). Researchers ha ve found depression, when present in a marriage, can impact the quality and stability of the relationship, as well as, the quality and stability of the relationship can impact the pr esence of depressive symptoms (Jackman-Cram, Dobson, Martin, 2006). Whitton, Olmos-Gallo, Stanley, Prado, Kline, St . Peters, et al. (2007) assessed a model of depressive symptoms in early marriage in whic h relationship confidence, defined as perceived couple-level efficacy to manage conflicts and main tain a healthy relationship, mediates the effect of negative marital interactions on depressi ve symptoms. The authors used 139 couples, however, in all analyses data collected from male s and females was analyzed separately to avoid

  12 problems associated with non-independence of da ta and to allow for id entification of gender differences. For the women in this study, negative marital interaction indirectly had an impact on depressive symptoms through the mediator of re lationship confidence. To further explore the relationship between depression and conflict, Marchand and Hock (2000) examined the relationship between depressive symptoms a nd marital satisfaction and conflict-resolution strategies of avoidance and a ttacking among a non-clinical samp le of married couples. They found depressive symptoms and marital satisfac tion were significant predictors of conflict- resolution strategies. Also, Faulkner, Davey, and Davey ( 2005) examined gender-related predictors of husbands’ and wives’ marital sati sfaction and marital conflict over time. They found both husbands’ and wives’ experience of depr ession led to increased levels of marital conflict for wives over time. Increasingly, previous resear chers have encouraged the inve stigation of marital conflict and its relationship with marital-psychologica l adjustment (Papp, Goeke-Morey, & Cummings, 2007; Whisman, 2007; Fincham & Beach, 1999; Sandberg & Harper, 1999). Papp, Goeke- Morey, and Cummings (2007) evalua ted the role of mar ital conflict strategi es in relation to wives’ and husbands’ psychologi cal distress levels. The author s found psychological symptoms uniquely predicted the occurrence of certain c onflict expressions, even when accounting for global negative marital sentiments. Wives and husba nds consistently reported conflict tactics of withdrawal and physical distress occurred with high levels of psychological symptoms. Also, wives’ symptoms of psychological distress were positively linked to dyadic pursuit, or not letting the conflict end. Papp, Goeke-Morey, and Cummi ngs (2007) suggested for future research exploring the impact of marita l conflict expressions and reso lution strategies when studying processes involved in marriag e-psychological adjustment. Age and Marital Conflict Based on the PPCT model, age is a person-leve l variable that has been associated with marital conflict through research. Used as a control variable, age is a person -related variable that was explored within the context of the current research. Age of the partners could possibly have an effect on marital conflict. The current rese arch uniquely assessed age by using the partner’s difference in age. Despite the amount of longitudina l research on marital conflict, there is minimal research assessing the impact of partne r’s age on marital conflict. Re cently, Bookwala, Sobin, and

Full document contains 94 pages
Abstract: Conflict is a normal occurrence in marriage, but when poorly managed can lead to divorce. The purpose of this research was to understand marital conflict as it changes over time. The researcher examined marital conflict from an Ecosystemic/Person-Process-Context-Time (PPCT) theoretical perspective and longitudinal design. Using three waves of data from the National Survey of Families and Households, the researcher used a sample of 289 couples to examine conflict resolution techniques and the effect of depression, having children, couple's difference in age, income, and race on marital conflict. Through multiple regression analysis, the researcher found arguing heatedly had a negative effect and discussing conflict calmly a positive effect on conflict over time. Overall, arguing heated had the greatest effect on marital conflict over time. These findings have significant implications for marriage and family therapists working with couples who are dealing with conflict. The implications and recommendations regarding conflict with married couples are discussed.