Psychology Ph.D. Dissertations


Longitudinal Effects of Self-reported Marital Strengths on Couples' Observed Conflictual Interactions Across the Transition to Parenthood

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Advisor

Annette Mahoney, PhD

Second Advisor

Kenneth Pargament, PhD (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Alfred DeMaris, PhD (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Anne Gordon, PhD (Committee Member)


The transition to parenthood is a challenging period in the lives of couples marked by a deterioration in observed positive communication processes, and an increase in observed negative communication processes that spouses use to manage conflict (Cox, Paley, Burchinal, & Payne, 1999). In a sample of 164 married couples, this study used longitudinal data from throughout the transition to parenthood to examine the causal links between self and spouse-reports of four types of marital strengths (i.e., spiritual intimacy, collaborative communication, sanctification of marriage, and marital love) and observations of spouses' communication processes during videotaped 10-minute marital conflict interactions. In fixed effects regression analyses, spouses' joint reports of husbands' and wives' spiritually intimate behaviors predicted less negative and more positive communication processes by both husbands and wives. Surprisingly, in contrast, spouses' joint reports of each spouses' collaborative communication behaviors during disagreements in daily life did not predict better communication processes during the observed conflict interactions. Additionally, greater perceptions of sanctifying one's marriage and of marital love each predicted some, but not all, assessed aspects of observed marital communication processes. Notably, because fixed effects regressions were conducted, it can be inferred that unmeasured stable, individual attributes and traits cannot account for the significant findings between the marital strength indicators and observed communication outcomes.