Faculté des lettres

Positive relationship processes : interpersonal emotion regulation and well-being in the daily life of romantic couples

Debrot, Anik ; Perrez, Meinrad (Dir.) ; Reicherts, Michael (Codir.)

Thèse de doctorat : Université de Fribourg, 2012.

The present doctoral thesis investigates interpersonal emotion regulation processes in the everyday life of romantic couples in four studies. It addresses the general question of what are the intra- and interpersonal consequences of trying to deal in a benevolent manner with the romantic partner’s mood. The sample was composed of 102 heterosexual couples. Participants were aged between 18 and... Plus

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    Summary
    The present doctoral thesis investigates interpersonal emotion regulation processes in the everyday life of romantic couples in four studies. It addresses the general question of what are the intra- and interpersonal consequences of trying to deal in a benevolent manner with the romantic partner’s mood. The sample was composed of 102 heterosexual couples. Participants were aged between 18 and 40 years old and indicated a high mean relationship satisfaction. The studies relied on data assessed with an electronic ambulatory assessment method, four times a day for seven consecutive days, simultaneously for both partners of the couples. Moreover, personal traits of the participants were gathered at the time of the ambulatory assessment as well as six months later. Data analyses were conducted within the framework of the Actor- Partner Interdependence Model; they relied mainly on a multilevel framework and were completed by some structural equation models. The following results were found: in study (a) perception of responsiveness was predicted by partner’s enacted responsiveness. However, own enacted responsiveness also predicted own perception of partner’s responsiveness, suggesting a projection process. Perception of responsiveness, in turn, predicted not only own but also partner’s feelings of intimacy, demonstrating an intimacy enhancing effect of being perceived as a responsive partner. Mediation analysis showed that perception of responsiveness mediates the effects of both own and partner’s enacted responsiveness on intimacy. In study (b), the display of responsive touch was associated with concurrent or directly following enhanced partner’s mood. This effect was mediated by increased touch receiver’s intimacy toward the partner. This indicated that the benefits of touch cannot be reduced to its mere physiological effects but that the quality of the relationship is determinant. Moreover, displaying touch was associated with enhanced mood of the touch giver. This effect was also mediated by enhanced intimacy. Additional analyses showed that the total amount of daily touch at Time 1 was associated with enhanced partner’s psychological wellbeing six months later. In study (c), thought suppression was associated with a consecutive decrease in the mood, not only of the suppressor but also of their partner. Responsive touch on the other hand was associated with a mood’s increase in the receiving as well as in the giving partner. Most central to our concern, partner responsive touch diminished the negative effects of thought suppression on the suppressor’s mood, showing a stress-buffering effect of a caring nonsexual touch from the partner. Finally, in study (d), the use of daily humor in the interaction with the partner was associated with current actor and partner positive affect. Additional mediational analyses showed that intimacy mediates the effect of humor on the partner’s mood. The habitual use of humor as an extrinsic emotion regulation strategy in everyday life showed positive effects on the mental health of the partner, as it was associated with less partner’s depressive symptoms. These findings revealed new processes through which close relationships promote well-being and underline the relevance of studying interpersonal processes in a dyadic naturalistic setting. Further research should investigate the generalizability of the findings as well as the conditions and personal characteristics under which the found processes are more beneficial or possibly detrimental. Moreover, open questions remind regarding the question of gender differences in these processes. Finally, the relevance of promoting such responsive or prosocial behaviors in psychotherapeutic interventions for distressed couples or clinically impaired individuals should be further investigated.