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The Relationship Between Personality and Marital Adjustment Among Distressed Married Couples Seen in Intensive Marital Therapy: An Actor-Partner Interdependence Model Analysis

Abstract

In this study, the actor-partner interdependence model was utilized to investigate the impact that personality has on marital adjustment in a sample of 270 couples (N = 540) in marital distress that presented to an intensive outpatient marital therapy program. Sixteen Personality Factor Fifth Edition (16PF Fifth Edition) scores revealed significant personality differences between husbands and wives, as well as significant actor and partner effects, suggesting that certain personality traits of one partner predict his or her own, as well as his or her spouse’s, marital adjustment. Gender effects also were evident among the sample, suggesting that a number of personality correlates of marital adjustment tended to be different for the husbands and wives in this study.

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Notes

  1. In that the authors used an archival data set for this study—the two self-report measures were administered to couples on day one of a week-long intensive marital therapy program solely as an initial assessment of personality and marital adjustment—we did not track marital outcomes. This, of course, was a major limitation of our study. In the future, studies that measure these variables in the context of marital therapy may wish to longitudinally track personality and marital adjustment so as to examine whether or not marital interventions have an impact on personality and marital adjustment over time.

  2. We decided to organize our predictions around three distinct hypotheses based on the ways in which prior marital research has been conducted. Thus, our first set of hypotheses are simply based on prior research examining spousal personality differences. With this very basic type of research, personality data among couples are examined solely based on gender, with researchers examining both happily and unhappily married couples to see if gender differences in personality exist between the two groups. Our second set of hypotheses, on the other hand, are based on more advanced statistical procedures—marital studies that focus specifically on actor or partner effects. This area of research typically utilizes regression analyses to examine the ways in which personality predicts marital adjustment; again, these are much more sophisticated statistical procedures than the procedures utilized within the first area of research. Moreover, the APIM statistical procedure, which we used in our study, investigates both actor and partner effects because these are very distinct, yet overlapping, phenomena within marital research—actor effects focus on intrapsychic phenomena (i.e., how certain characteristics of an individual impact other characteristics of that same individual), whereas partner effects measure interdependence (i.e., how certain characteristics of an individual impact the characteristics of others he or she is somehow connected to or affiliated with). In other words, actor effects focus solely on the individual, a salient area of marital research, whereas partner effects examine the system, also an important area of marital research. So, an individual can simultaneously have both actor and partner effects, or only actor or partner effects, in that he or she has an influence on both him- or herself, as well as the system he or she is embedded in, to varying degrees. Finally, we offered a third hypothesis to examine the impact that gender has on actor and partner effects in that this is a seldom studied area of marital research. Overall, although the different hypotheses in our study may seem to have some overlap, they are distinct areas of marital research that utilize very different statistical procedures and yield divergent results.

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Correspondence to Joshua J. Knabb.

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Knabb, J.J., Vogt, R.G. The Relationship Between Personality and Marital Adjustment Among Distressed Married Couples Seen in Intensive Marital Therapy: An Actor-Partner Interdependence Model Analysis. Contemp Fam Ther 33, 417–440 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10591-011-9167-1

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10591-011-9167-1

Keywords

  • Personality
  • Marriage
  • Actor-partner interdependence model
  • Adjustment