Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

The Association between Partner Enhancement and Self-Enhancement and Relationship Quality Outcomes

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

The Association between Partner Enhancement and Self-Enhancement and Relationship Quality Outcomes

Article excerpt

The purpose of this research was to understand in greater detail, using 2 samples (Study 1 N = 4,881 heterosexual couples; Study 2 N = 335 heterosexual couples who completed the Relationship Evaluation Questionnaire), how partner or self-enhancement patterns differentially influence relationship outcomes. A multivariate analysis of covariance was conducted comparing 4 outcome measures for different couple types in which individuals rated the partner higher, the same, or lower than they rated themselves on affability. Couples in which both individuals perceived themselves as more affable than the partner experienced poorer results on the relationship outcome measures, whereas couples in which both individuals perceived the partner's personality as more affable than their own experienced more positive relationship outcomes. Additional analyses with structural equation models demonstrated the consistent influence of enhancement measures on relationship outcomes for cross-sectional and longitudinal samples.

Key Words: attributions, dyadic data, partner enhancement.

Scholars have been studying the influence of different patterns in self- and partner ratings on relationship outcomes for a few decades now (e.g., Busby, Holman, & Taniguchi, 2001; Fowers, Lyons, & Montel, 1996; Fowers, Lyons, Montel, & Shaked, 2001; John & Robins, 1994; Murray, Holmes, & Griffin, 1996, 2003; Robins, Caspi, & Moffitt, 2000; Taylor, 1989; Taylor & Brown, 1988). Although this research has clarified some issues, there are still many questions about the theoretical, methodological, and practical efficacy of various self- and partner rating patterns for understanding couple relationship outcomes.

A finding related to our research interests is that individuals are usually likely to view themselves more positively than they are perceived by others. This propensity to enhance one's own qualities, or self-illusion, holds true for an assortment of measures on a wide variety of behaviors, attributes, personality characteristics, intelligence and attractiveness, and specific recalled behaviors of a recent interaction (Bailey & Mettetal, 1977; Gosling, John, Craik, & Robins, 1998; John & Robins, 1993; Kenny & DePaulo, 1993; Taylor & Brown, 1988).

Self-illusion appears to transfer over to intimate relationships in that most people believe their relationship is better than the relationships of strangers and the relationships of their friends (Van Lange & Rusbult, 1995). In addition, most people believe their relationship is much less likely to end in divorce than is realistic given the current rates of divorce (Buunk & van der Eijnder, 1997; Endo, Heine, & Lehman, 2000; Fowers et al., 1996). This self-illusion carries over to more than just views about the overall relationship. Some individuals rate their partner the same or better than themselves and better than others with whom they are not in a relationship (Fowers et al., 2001; Kenny & Acitelli, 200 1 ; Miller & Bailey, 2002; Murray & Holmes, 1999; Murray, Holmes, Bellavia, Griffin, & DoIderman, 2002; Murray et al., 2003). A number of scholars suggest that such positive illusions are important for relationships in that they help partners to feel understood, experience a sense of similarity, overlook one another's faults and maximize each other's strengths, and motivate them to improve their individual behaviors and attitudes in order to be perceived as more favorable by the partner (Murray & Holmes, 1999; Murray et al., 2002, 2003).

There are a variety of ways to compare ratings when both members of a dyad are asked to rate self and other. The existing research, however, demonstrates that it is the comparison between how people rate themselves and how the same people rate their partners that appears to be the most influential in predicting couple outcomes (Busby & Gardner, 2008; Murray & Holmes, 1999; Murray et al. …

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