Task adaptability : a state theory perspective of marital interaction



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In the context of social psychological and social learning hypotheses concerning the relationship between situational responsiveness and disordered marital functioning, the behavior of happy and less-happy couples (N=42) was studied during problem-solving and emotional interactions one month after the birth of their first child. Behavioral observations of couples' problem-solving and supportive, empathic behaviors were obtained during conflict situations and during those requiring discussion and support of emotional issues. These situations were generated by the partners themselves. As measured by the proportion of couples' supportive and problem-solving behaviors in each situation, subjects were able to determine the situational demands and respond appropriately, behaving differently in the two situations. Contrary to hypotheses suggested by previous research, marital adjustment was not related to the couples’ responsiveness to the demands of these differing marital situations. Also, couple types did not differ in their use of aversive behaviors as would have been predicted by previous work of social learning theorists. The implications of these findings for a social learning theory of marital interaction were discussed. In addition, these findings were discussed in light of the special impact on couples associated with the birth of a first child.



Marriage, Communication in marriage