Negative Relationship Behavior Is More Important Than Positive: Correlates of Outcomes During Stressful Life Events

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Abstract

When people who are married or cohabiting face stressful life situations, their ability to cope may be associated with two separate dimensions of interpersonal behavior: positive and negative. These behaviors can be assessed with the Couple Resilience Inventory (CRI). It was expected that scales on this instrument would correlate with outcome variables regarding life well-being, stress, and relationship satisfaction. It was also expected that effects for negative behavior would be larger than effects for positive and that the effects might be curvilinear. Study 1 included 325 married or cohabiting people currently experiencing nonmedical major life stressors and Study 2 included 154 married or cohabiting people with current, serious medical conditions. All participants completed an online questionnaire including the CRI along with an alternate measure of couple behavior (to confirm scale validity), a measure of general coping style (to serve as a covariate), and measures of outcome variables regarding well-being, quality of life, perceived stress, and relationship satisfaction. The effects for negative behavior were larger than effects for positive in predicting most outcomes, and many effects were curvilinear. Notably, results remained significant after controlling for general coping style, and scales measuring positive and negative behavior demonstrated comparable levels of validity.

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