Responsive Listening in Long-Married Couples: A Psycholinguistic Perspective

Abstract

Positive and responsive listening behavior benefits marital satisfaction, but previous reports have examined emotionally positive behavior confounded with responsive behavior, and focused primarily on younger marriages. Psycholinguistic views of listening suggest that responsive listening is distinct from emotionally positive listening. The former may change with an aging relationship, while the latter is unlikely to do so. Long-married couples share extensive common ground about recurrent conflicts, reducing the need for some listening behaviors. We observed 79 younger and older married couples, happily and unhappily married, discussing conflicts. We coded listening behaviors indicative of attention and comprehension (responsiveness) as well as those expressing emotions. We expected that older married couples would display lower frequencies of responsive listening behaviors than middle-aged couples. Results provide conditional support for this hypothesis. Implications for research on marital communication and aging are discussed.

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Pasupathi, M., Carstensen, L.L., Levenson, R.W. et al. Responsive Listening in Long-Married Couples: A Psycholinguistic Perspective. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior 23, 173–193 (1999). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1021439627043

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Keywords

  • Social Psychology
  • Common Ground
  • Married Couple
  • Marital Satisfaction
  • Positive Behavior