Relational Aggression and Marital Quality: A Five-Year Longitudinal Study

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Relational aggression occurs in many different contexts, including in romantic relationships. The current study examined associations between two subtypes of relational aggression (love withdrawal and social sabotage) and marital quality over a 5-year time period. Participants consisted of 311 married couples who completed a number of questionnaires on relational aggression and relationship quality once a year over a 5-year period. Results revealed that relational aggression was highly stable over time and that women used more relational aggression than men. Men’s use of social sabotage and love withdrawal were bidirectionally related to both partners’ perceptions of poor marital quality over time. Conversely, only women’s use of love withdrawal was related to her own perceptions of poor marital quality over time. Collectively, these results suggest that relational aggression by men may be less common, though particularly toxic in a marital relationship. Couples are encouraged to find healthier ways of coping with problems in relationships.

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