Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Longitudinal Associations between Husbands' and Wives' Depressive Symptoms

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Longitudinal Associations between Husbands' and Wives' Depressive Symptoms

Article excerpt

Although concordance between husbands' and wives' mental health problems is often reported, questions remain about the nature of these relations. Extending research in this area, this study examined dynamic-longitudinal pathways among husbands' and wives' depressive symptoms and marital satisfaction as a moderator of associations. Participants were 296 heterosexual couples. Husbands and wives reported on their depressive symptoms and marital satisfaction. Results from dynamic bivariate latent difference score analyses indicated unidirectional longitudinal coupling such that higher levels of husbands' depressive symptoms predicted subsequent elevations in wives' depressive symptoms over time. This relation was stronger among couples reporting marital distress as compared to couples reporting higher marital satisfaction. The findings underscore the importance of considering one's spouses' depressive symptoms in treatment efforts.

Key Words: depression, dyadic or couple data, longitudinal method, marriage and close relationships.

Although much attention has justifiably focused on the serious public heath concerns posed by clinical depression, subclinical depressive symptoms also pose a significant public health problem and have been repeatedly linked with impaired functioning across multiple domains (Greenberg et al., 2003; Judd, Paulus, Wells, & Rapaport, 1996; Kessler, Zhao, Blazer, & Swartz, 1997; Wells et al., 1989). For example, Judd et al. (1996) found similar levels of social impairment, including household and financial strain, restricted activity, and poor health status, among subsyndromal and clinically depressed participants. Subclinical problems are an especially common depressive condition in community samples (e.g., Judd, Akiskal, & Paulus, 1 997) and are a risk factor for developing depression (e.g., Beach, Martin, Blum, & Roman, 1993; Broadhead, Blazer, George, & Tse, 1990; Horwath, Johnson, Klerman, &Weissman, 1992; Judd et al., 1998; Wells et al., 1989). Depressive symptoms before the onset of depression also characterize its longitudinal course (Fava, Grandi, Zielezny, Canestrari, & Morphy, 1994; Fava & Mangelli, 2001; Judd et al., 1996).

Concordance is often reported between husbands' and wives' depressive symptoms, suggesting that the marital relationship may be an important context for understanding the developmental course of depression (Joiner & Katz, 1999; Kiecolt-Glaser & Newton, 2001; Meyler, Stimpson, & Peek, 2007; Rehman, Gollan, & Mortimer, 2008). The positive relation between spouses' depression has been referred to as depression contagion (Joiner & Katz) and stems from the interactional theory of depression proposed by Coyne (1976). The interactional theory of depression posits that depressed individuals simultaneously seek excessive reassurance and negative feedback from those close to them; that is, people with depressive symptoms seek reassurance yet doubt the sincerity of it. Although those close to people with depressive symptoms may at first respond with support, over time they may become increasingly frustrated and respond in less supportive ways. Further, Coyne posited that this cycle of excessive reassurance and negative feedback elicits negative affect in those close to individuals with depressive symptoms. Thus, in elucidating the processes that may account for the concordance of depressive symptoms among spouses, or depression contagion, Coyne's theory implies that interactions and communication between people with depressive symptoms and their partners may be a mechanism by which depressive symptoms in one spouse are related to their partners' symptoms. In a meta-analysis, Joiner and Katz found evidence for depression contagion among different types of close partner relationships, including dating couples and spouses. Notably, evidence was stronger for the contagion of depressive symptoms than general negative affect. …

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