Academic journal article Family Relations

Accentuating the Positive, Eliminating the Negative? Relationship Maintenance as a Predictor of Two-Dimensional Relationship Quality

Academic journal article Family Relations

Accentuating the Positive, Eliminating the Negative? Relationship Maintenance as a Predictor of Two-Dimensional Relationship Quality

Article excerpt

In this study, relationship maintenance and its connections with positive and negative relationship quality were examined among Finnish parents (N = 177 women and 153 men; i.e., partners from 150 couples and 27 women and 3 men whose partner did not participate in the study). Relationship maintenance was measured using Stafford, Dainton, and Haas's (2000) version of the RMSM and two-dimensional relationship quality using Fincham and Linfield's (1997) PANQIMS. Structural equation modeling was utilized to analyze paired data. Women were found to report more relationship maintenance behaviors than their partners. The results showed further that relationship maintenance was connected with both positive and negative relationship quality. Women's maintenance was linked with their own positive and negative relationship quality and their partners' negative quality. Men's relationship maintenance was connected only with their own experiences of positive quality. All in all, women's relationship maintenance played a more central role for relationship quality.

Key Words: paired data, relational maintenance, sex differences, structural equation modeling.

How are high quality marriages different from low quality ones? This is an intriguing question for researchers and practitioners as well as for the partners themselves. Whereas the earlier research on this question was almost wholly focused on negative aspects of marital life, during the past decade there has been a broad shift toward recognizing the positive aspects as well (e.g., Fincham & Beach, 2010). In line with this shift, this study sought answers to the above mentioned question by focusing on relationship maintenance. The perspectives of previous studies on relational maintenance were broadened by taking into account that spouses do not experience only high or low relationship quality but rather that a person may simultaneously hold both positive and negative views about her or his relationship (see Fincham & Linfield, 1997). Thus, this study examined how and to what extent relationship maintenance is associated with positive and negative relationship quality (i.e., two-dimensional relationship quality). In addition, gender differences in relationship maintenance and two-dimensional relationship quality and in the connections between them were studied. The study was conducted utilizing paired data on Finnish couples with young children and using the version of the Relational Maintenance Strategy Measure developed by Stafford, Dainton, and Haas (2000) and the Positive and Negative Quality in Marriage Scale developed by Fincham and Linfield.

Definitions of Relationship Maintenance

Although in the research literature relationship (or relational) maintenance has been defined in several distinct, if overlapping, ways (Canary & Dainton, 2006; Dindia & Canary, 1993), relationship maintenance is most often conceptualized as the process of keeping a relationship in satisfactory condition (Dindia, 2000). This definition was adopted also in this study. In contrast to other definitions that refer to relationship maintenance as, for example, keeping a relationship in existence or keeping a relationship in its present state, and thus emphasize stability or preserving the status quo, this definition focuses on the quality aspect of relationships. The process of maintaining the spousal relationship in satisfactory condition can be more or less conscious. Usually this distinction has been made using the dichotomy between strategies and routines (e.g., Canary & Stafford, 2008; Dainton & Stafford, 1993). Whereas strategies refer to maintenance activities that are performed consciously, with an intention to maintain a relationship, routine maintenance takes place without an intention to maintain a relationship and usually at the lower levels of consciousness.

Relationship maintenance can also be defined by identifying what people do to maintain their relationships. …

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