Stress Crossover in Newlywed Marriage

A Longitudinal and Dyadic Perspective

Published in: Journal of Marriage and Family, v. 69, No. 3, Aug. 2007, p. 594-607

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2007

by Lisa A. Neff, Benjamin Karney

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Studies of stress and marital quality often assess stress as an intrapersonal phenomenon, examining how spouses' stress may influence their own relationship well-being. Yet spouses'' stress also may influence partners' relationship evaluations, a phenomenon referred to as stress crossover. This study examined stress crossover, and conditions that may facilitate crossover, in a sample of 169 newlywed couples over 3.5 years. A significant crossover effect emerged for husbands, which was moderated by couples' observed conflict resolution skills. For wives, a significant stress interaction emerged, such that the influence of husbands' stress on wives' marital satisfaction depended on wives' own stress levels. These findings highlight the importance of a dyadic approach when examining the role of stress in marriage.

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