Cardiovascular Reactivity and Initiate/Avoid Patterns of Marital Communication: A Test of Gottman's Psychophysiologic Model of Marital Interaction

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Gottman's (1990, 1991;Gottman and Levenson, 1988) psychophysiologic model of marital interaction was tested in 60 married couples. Participants were classified as avoiders or initiators of relationship problem discussions by trained coders observing videotaped semistructured interviews. Blood pressure (BP) and heart rate reactivity was assessed during the cold pressor test, during a mental math test, while watching a marital argument on video, and during a conjoint interview. As hypothesized, avoiders had significantly greater systolic BP reactivity during the interview. Additionally, husbands who interacted with avoider wives had significantly greater diastolic and systolic BP reactivity than did husbands of initiator wives. Initiator husbands, in particular, who were married to avoider wives had greater systolic BP reactivity. These results both support Gottman's psychophysiologic model and suggest modifications of it.

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