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Spousal Distress and Social Behavior in the Home: A Naturalistic Study

Richard Lawrence Potomac


Shu-wen Wang

UCLA Sloan Center on Everyday Lives of Families
Working Paper No. 83


The present study examined the association between spousesí psychological well-being and their social behavior within the home. Thirty two middle-class couples with children were filmed over a two-day period in their homes. Both spouses completed one-time questionnaires that assessed depressive symptomatology, trait neuroticism, and marital satisfaction. The naturalistic videotapes were coded for spousesí talkativeness, social engagement, and emotion displays. More frequent negative emotion displays were associated with more depressive symptomatology and higher trait neuroticism. Negative emotion displays were inversely correlated with reported marital satisfaction. When analyzing husbands and wives separately, the sample sizes were cut in half and, as a result, none of the negative emotion display correlations remained statistically significant. For husbands, a positive correlation between negative emotion displays and depressive symptomatology approached significance. Interestingly, wivesí depressive symptomatology was positively associated with more frequent social engagement. Findings suggest that spousesí psychological well-being may influence their social behavior within the home.

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