Journal of Happiness Studies

, Volume 18, Issue 2, pp 575–589 | Cite as

Sacrifice in a Supportive Marriage: Social Support as a Moderator Buffers the Negative Effects of Sacrifice in Marriage

  • Wei-Fang Lin
  • Tsui-Shan LiEmail author
  • Lung Hung ChenEmail author
Research Paper


There is a long and interesting history in the study of the positive and negative effects of sacrifice, but few researchers have focused on how one’s marital partner being the recipient of sacrifice may lead to different outcomes. Based on conservation of resources theory, we suggested that a partner’s social support could be a potential moderator between sacrifice and well-being. To examine our hypothesis, we invited 141 Taiwanese couples to participate in our study. As expected, we found that only for those individuals whose partners provided less social support to them, the more they sacrificed, the lower marital satisfaction and the higher depressive symptoms they reported. In contrast, this effect was not found for the context in which a partner provided more social support. In addition, the negative correlation between a partner’s sacrifice and one’s depressive symptoms became stronger when an individual provided more support to their sacrificing partner. Our findings highlight that the relationship between sacrifice and well-being are contingent upon context, and are particularly dependent on whether the recipient of sacrifice can provide a supportive relationship.


Depressive symptoms Marital satisfaction Sacrifice Social support 



This work was founded by National Science Council, Taiwan (NSC 102-2410-H-030 -011 & MOST 103-2410-H-030 -035 -MY2) for Tsui-Shan Li. In addition, Lung Hung Chen was supported by Ministry of Education, Taiwan (2012 project of elastic salary for outstanding scholar).


  1. Bolger, N., Zuckerman, A., & Kessler, R. C. (2000). Invisible support and adjustment to stress. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 79, 953–961.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Brown, S. L., Nesse, R. M., Vinokur, A. D., & Smith, D. M. (2003). Providing social support may be more beneficial than receiving it: Results from a prospective study of mortality. Psychological Science, 14(4), 320–327. doi: 10.1111/1467-9280.14461.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Chang, Y.-P., Li, T.-S., Teng, H. Y., Berki, A., & Chen, L. H. (2012). Living with gratitude: Spouse’s gratitude on one’s depression. Journal of Happiness Studies, 13(5), 761–781. doi: 10.1007/s10902-012-9389-4.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Chen, F.-M., & Li, T.-S. (2012a). Effects of daily life demands and young children’s heart-warming behaviors on dual-earner partnet’s well-being. Formosa Journal of Mental Health, 25(3), 353–376.Google Scholar
  5. Chen, L. H., & Li, T.-S. (2012b). Role balance and marital satisfaction in Taiwanese couples: An actor-partner interdependence model approach. Social Indicators Research, 107(1), 187–199.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Chien, C. P., & Cheng, T. A. (1985). Depression in Taiwan: Epidemiological survey utilizing CES-D. Seishin Shinkeigaku Zasshi, 87(5), 335–338.Google Scholar
  7. Cobb, S. (1976). Presidential address-1976. Social support as a moderator of life stress. Psychosomatic Medicine, 38(5), 300–314.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Cohen, S., & Wills, T. A. (1985). Stress, social support, and the buffering hypothesis. Psychological Bulletin, 98(2), 310–357. doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.98.2.310.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Collins, N. L., & Feeney, B. C. (2000). A safe haven: an attachment theory perspective on support seeking and caregiving in intimate relationships. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 78(6), 1053–1073.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cook, W. L., & Kenny, D. A. (2005). The actor–partner interdependence model: A model of bidirectional effects in developmental studies. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 29, 101–109. doi: 10.1080/01650250444000405.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Coyne, J. C., & DeLongis, A. (1986). Going beyond social support: The role of social relationships in adaptation. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 54(4), 454–460.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Crane, D. R., Middleton, K. C., & Bean, R. A. (2000). Establishing criterion scores for the Kansas marital satisfaction scale and the revised dyadic adjustment scale. American Journal of Family Therapy, 28, 53–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Cutrona, C. E. (1996). Social support in couples: Marriage as a resource in times of stress. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Cutrona, C. E., Cohen, B. B., & Igram, S. (1990). Contextual determinants of the perceived supportiveness of helping behaviors. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 7, 553–562. doi: 10.1177/0265407590074011.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Dean, A., & Lin, N. (1977). The stress-buffering role of social support. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 165, 403–417.Google Scholar
  16. Deci, E. L. (2006). On the benefits of giving as well as receiving autonomy support: Mutuality in close friendships. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 32(3), 313–327. doi: 10.1177/0146167205282148.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Etzion, D. (1984). Moderating effect of social support on the stress–burnout relationship. Journal of Applied Psychology, 69(4), 615–622.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Feeney, B. C. (2004). A secure base: responsive support of goal strivings and exploration in adult intimate relationships. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 87(5), 631–648.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Gable, S. L., & Shean, G. D. (2000). Perceived social competence and depression. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 17, 139–150.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Gasper, K., & Clore, G. L. (2002). Attending to the big picture: Mood and global versus local processing of visual information. Psychological Science, 13, 34–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Gotlib, I. H., Krasnoperova, E., Yue, D. N., & Joormann, J. (2004). Attentional biases for negative interpersonal stimuli in clinical depression. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 113, 127–135.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hobfoll, S. E. (1989). Conservation of resources: A new attempt at conceptualizing stress. American Psychologist, 44, 513–524. doi: 10.1037/0003-066X.44.3.513.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hobfoll, S. E., & Spielberger, C. D. (1992). Family stress: Integrating theory and measurement. Journal of Family Psychology, 6(2), 99–112.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Horowitz, L. M., Krasnoperova, E. N., Tatar, D. G., Hansen, M. B., Person, E. A., Galvin, K. L., et al. (2001). The way to console may depend on the goal: Experimental studies of social support. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 37, 49–61. doi: 10.1006/jesp.2000.1435.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Impett, E. A., Gable, S. L., & Peplau, L. A. (2005). Giving up and giving in the costs and benefits of daily sacrifice in intimate relationships. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 89, 327–344. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.89.3.327.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Impett, E. A., & Gordon, A. (2008). For the good of others: Toward a positive psychology of sacrifice. In S. J. Lopez (Ed.), Positive psychology: Exploring the best in people (pp. 79–100). Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing.Google Scholar
  27. Impett, E. A., Javam, L., Le, B. M., Asyabi-Eshghi, B., & Kogan, A. (2013a). The joys of genuine giving: Approach and avoidance sacrifice motivation and authenticity. Personal Relationships, 20, 740–754. doi: 10.1111/pere.12012.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Impett, E. A., Kogan, A., English, T., John, O., Oveis, C., Gordon, A. M., & Keltner, D. (2012). Suppression sours sacrifice: emotional and relational costs of suppressing emotions in romantic relationships. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 38, 707–720. doi: 10.1177/0146167212437249.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Impett, E. A., Le, B. M., Kogan, A., Oveis, C., & Keltner, D. (2013b). When you think your partner is holding back: The costs of perceived partner suppression during relationship sacrifice. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 5, 542–549. doi: 10.1177/1948550613514455.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Jack, D. C. (1991). Silencing the self: Women and depression. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  31. Kane, H. S., McCall, C., Collins, N. L., & Blascovich, J. (2012). Mere presence is not enough: Responsive support in a virtual world. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 48, 37–44. doi: 10.1016/j.jesp.2011.07.001.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Knoll, N., Kienle, R., Bauer, K., Pfüller, B., & Luszczynska, A. (2007). Affect and enacted support in couples undergoing in vitro fertilization: When providing is better than receiving. Social Science and Medicine, 64, 1789–1801. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2007.01.004.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Kogan, A., Impett, E. A., Oveis, C., Hui, B., Gordon, A. M., & Keltner, D. (2010). When giving feels good: The intrinsic benefits of sacrifice in romantic relationships for the communally motivated. Psychological Science, 21, 1918–1924. doi: 10.1177/0956797610388815.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Li, T.-S. (2012). Ren (Forbearance) in couple relationship and how it is related to marital. Formosa Journal of Mental Health, 25, 447–475.Google Scholar
  35. Maisel, N. C., & Gable, S. L. (2009). The paradox of received social support the importance of responsiveness. Psychological Science, 20, 928–932.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Overall, N. C., Fletcher, G. J. O., & Simpson, J. A. (2010). Helping each other grow: Romantic partner support, self-improvement, and relationship quality. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 36, 1496–1513. doi: 10.1177/0146167210383045.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Pasch, L. A., & Bradbury, T. N. (1998). Social support, conflict, and the development of marital dysfunction. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 66(2), 219–230. doi: 10.1037/0022-006X.66.2.219.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Pfeifer, L., Miller, R. B., Li, T.-S., & Hsiao, Y.-L. (2013). Perceived marital problems in Taiwan. Contemporary Family Therapy, 35(1), 91–104.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Preacher, K. J., Curran, P. J., & Bauer, D. J. (2006). Computational tools for probing interactions in multiple linear regression, multilevel modeling, and latent curve analysis. Journal of Educational and Behavioral Statistics, 31, 437–448.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Radloff, L. S. (1977). The CES-D scale: A self-report depression scale for research in the general population. Applied Psychological Measurement, 1, 385–401.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Rahim, M. A. (1983). A measure of styles of handling interpersonal conflict. The Academy of Management Journal, 26, 368–376.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Raudenbush, S. W., Byrk, A. S., Chenong, Y. F., & Congdon, R. T. (2004). HLM 6: Hierarchical linear and nonlinear modeling. Chicago, IL: Scientific Software International.Google Scholar
  43. Schumm, W. R., Paff-Bergen, L. A., Hatch, R. C., Obiorah, F. C., Copeland, J. M., Meens, L. D., et al. (1986). Concurrent and discriminant validity of the Kansas Marital Satisfaction Scale. Journal of Marriage and Family, 48, 381–387. doi: 10.2307/352405.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Shek, D. T. L., Lam, M. C., Tsoi, K. W., & Lam, C. M. (1993). Psychometric properties of the Chinese version of the Kansas Marital Satisfaction Scale. Social Behavior and Personality, 21, 241–249.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Su, L. P., Miller, R. B., Canlas, J. M., Li, T.-S., Hsiao, Y.-L., & Willoughby, B. J. (2015). A cross-cultural study of perceived marital problems in Taiwan and the United States. Contemporary Family Therapy, 37, 165–175.Google Scholar
  46. Thoits, P. A. (1995). Stress, coping, and social support processes: Where are we? What next? Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 35, 53–79.Google Scholar
  47. Totenhagen, C. J., Curran, M. A., Serido, J., & Butler, E. A. (2013). Good days, bad days: Do sacrifices improve relationship quality? Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 30(7), 881–900. doi: 10.1177/0265407512472475.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Vaananen, A., Buunk, B. P., Kivimaki, M., Pentti, J., & Vahtera, J. (2005). When it is better to give than to receive: Long-term health effects of perceived reciprocity in support exchange. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 89(2), 176–193.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Van Lange, P. A. M., Agnew, C. R., Harinck, F., & Steemers, G. E. M. (1997a). From game theory to real life: How social value orientation affects willingness to sacrifice in ongoing close relationships. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 73(6), 1330–1344.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Van Lange, P. A. M., Rusbult, C. E., Drigotas, S. M., Arriaga, X. B., Witcher, B. S., & Cox, C. L. (1997b). Willingness to sacrifice in close relationships. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 72, 1373–1395.Google Scholar
  51. Vinokur, A., Schul, Y., & Caplan, R. D. (1987). Determinants of perceived social support: Interpersonal transactions, personal outlook, and transient affective states. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 53, 1137–1145.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Whitton, S. W., Stanley, S. M., & Markman, H. J. (2007). If I help my partner, will it hurt me? Perceptions of sacrifice in romantic relationships. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 26(1), 64–91.Google Scholar
  53. Wieselquist, J., Rusbult, C. E., Foster, C. A., & Agnew, C. R. (1999). Commitment, pro-relationship behavior, and trust in close relationships. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 77, 942–966.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Zhang, W., O’Brien, N., Forrest, J. I., Salters, K. A., Patterson, T. L., Montaner, J. S., et al. (2012). Validating a shortened depression scale (10 item CES-D) among HIV-positive people in British Columbia. Canada. PLoS One, 7(7), e40793. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0040793.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Child and Family StudiesFu Jen Catholic UniversityNew Taipei CityTaiwan
  2. 2.Department of Recreation and Leisure Industry ManagementNational Taiwan Sport UniversityTaoyuanTaiwan

Personalised recommendations