Zooming in: A Microanalysis of Couples’ Dyadic Coping Conversations After Experimentally Induced Stress

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Growing evidence that social support in times of stress is crucial for well-functioning relationships raises important questions about how intimate partners elicit specific forms of supportive behavior. To explore the process of support elicitation, we exposed either the male or female partner in a relationship to a standardized laboratory stressor (N = 127 couples), videotaped their subsequent reunion, and then coded those interactions at a microanalytic level to investigate links between expressions of stress and partner responses to those expressions. Multilevel analyses indicated that the type of stress expression served as a cue for the dyadic coping reaction of the partner. For example, problem-oriented stress expression within a 10-s interval of the conversation was strongly linked to problem-oriented dyadic coping in the same or following time sequence, while emotion-oriented stress expressions were associated with emotion-oriented dyadic coping reactions. These findings enhance the understanding of the link between different stress expressions and dyadic coping reactions and offer important implications for couple interventions.

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