Dyadic Perspectives on Trauma and Marital Quality

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Abstract

Dyadic analyses were conducted to examine actor, partner, and Actor × Partner interaction effects of lifetime history of 4 traumas on marital quality (i.e., perceived frequency of positive and negative partner exchanges) in a population-based sample of married couples (N = 2,161 couples). People with a history of serious physical attack or assault and physical abuse by a parent as a child reported that their partners engaged in less frequent positive exchanges and more frequent negative exchanges; people with a life-threatening illness or accident reported that their partners engaged in more frequent negative exchanges. People who reported a history of physical abuse by a parent as a child were seen by their partners as engaging in less frequent positive exchanges, people who reported a history of serious physical attack or assault were seen by their partners as engaging in more frequent negative exchanges, and people who reported that they had been in a natural disaster were seen by their partners as engaging in more frequent positive exchanges. There was no evidence that couples in which both partners reported a lifetime history of trauma (i.e., dual-trauma couples) reported poorer marital quality than other couples. A positive history of each of the traumas in 1 person was associated with increased probability of the partner reporting the same trauma, thereby providing evidence for partner similarity on trauma history. As physical abuse by a parent as a child occurred prior to marriage, these results provide evidence of assortative mating for parental physical abuse.

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