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Self-disclosure and relationship quality

A study among nonmarital cohabiting couples


This article tests three competing theories that attempt to explain the reasons for and shape and direction of the relationship between self-disclosure and relationship quality among nonmarital cohabiting couples. The data strongly support the linear model which suggests that the greater the degree of self-disclosure, the greater the degree of relationship quality the couple will achieve. The article concludes that relationship depth emerges only after the couple are able to deal openly and creatively with conflict. One of the key prerequisites for achieving the ability to creatively handle conflict seems to be that the couple must have a high level of commitment to working on the relationship and possess the necessary communication and problem-solving skills that permit the couple to change and grow.

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Authors' Note: Revision of a paper presented at the National Council on Family Relations annual meeting, Portland, Oregon, October 22–25, 1980. Data for this article were collected with funds from the Denison University Research Foundation and the Denison University Faculty Research Council. Data analysis and writings were made possible by support from the Home Economics Research Institute of Iowa State University. The authors would like to express appreciation to Anna L. Cole of Marriage Counseling Associates in Ames, Iowa, and to Jane Goettsch of Gustavus Adolphus College for providing constructive comments and making editorial suggestions on the manuscript. The authors would also like to thank Donald Bower of the University of Georgia at Ft. Valley for his valuable contributions to the project while serving as project coordinator in the data collection and project planning phases of this research.

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Cole, C.L., Goettsch, S.L. Self-disclosure and relationship quality. J Fam Econ Iss 4, 428–466 (1981).

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  • Linear Model
  • Social Policy
  • Social Issue
  • Relationship Quality
  • Relationship Depth