STUDIES OF stress transmission have indicated that the psychological effects of occupational stress can have negative consequences for not just the individual worker, but also for their spouse or life partner. Research findings suggest that the negative effects of work stress can be transmitted between partners, with an individual's level of occupational stress being related to psychological strain for their spouse, or partner.
The majority of studies in stress transmission have provided evidence for a mainly unidirectional transmission of stress, with mens' work "stressors" being positively related to poorer mental health for female partners, even when females also work. However, while many researchers have chosen to investigate transmission in homogeneous and male dominated occupational samples, such as police officers, military personnel, air traffic controllers etc, fewer have investigated the nature and direction of stress transmission in more typical dual-career couples from heterogeneous occupational groups.
This study built on previous research by investigating the nature and direction of stress transmission in a sample of full-time working couples, where male and female partners hold equivalent, or at least comparable status work roles, and experience similar levels and types of occupational stressors. It also aimed to investigate the role communication about work might play in the transmission process, by analysing frequency of discussion about work between partners.
While the findings of the study provide clear evidence that transmission of stress does occur between partners in full-time working couples, the findings do not support previous research concerning a unidirectional transmission of stress, from men to women. Although a significant relationship was found between the demands of a man's job and the anxiety suffered by his partner, the strongest relationships by far were between aspects of women's jobs, and the resultant anxiety and depression for their partners. In light of previous research findings, the results are surprising, and highlight an unexpected vulnerability of mens' mental health in relation to their …