A Marital Process Perspective
of Adolescent Romantic Relationships
John M. Gottman
University of Washington
In this review we are commenting on the chapters in this volume from the context of our research on marital processes. We use our experience in observational research of married couples to outline important areas of study needed in adolescent romantic couple research. We also tackle the developmental themes of identity formation and intimacy that are addressed by several of the authors in this volume and discuss how these areas are recognized within the context of marital relationships and how they might be represented in adolescent romantic relationships.
An important goal of our work in marital relationships has been to understand the processes functioning within marital communication. Through the study of these processes we have come to understand particular structures of marital communication including the significance of daily interactions, the ability of partners to accept influence from their spouse, the impact of negative emotions during conflict, and how couples try to repair negativity. Through observational research we have identified both effective and harmful patterns of communication within marital interactions and have started using this knowledge to develop interventions.
As a Weld, we are still in the process of discovery with regard to adolescent romantic relationships, and we have yet to identify many critical patterns of communication or emotional expression used by adolescents in these relationships. Many of the authors in this volume agree that extensive research is required to understand adolescent romantic relationships, with particular emphasis on how these relationships develop across the stages of adolescence. We suggest that an important method for understanding these changes is to identify specific patterns of interaction that occur in adolescent dating couples. An example of a study that took this approach is seen in the Young Parenthood