What Predicts Divorce? The Relationship between Marital Processes and Marital Outcomes

By John Mordechai Gottman | Go to book overview

6
In What Sense are Regulated Couples Regulated?

A question remains in suggesting that any system is regulated, namely, what is the error signal? This means that there must be some quantity that is being regulated, so that deviations from this set point results in the system restabilizing in some manner. The choice of this error signal is explored in this chapter.

In chapter 5, I reported the results of a study that Levenson and I conducted in which we classified married couples into two groups based on their interactive behavior during conflict resolution. Seventy-three married couples were studied in 1983 and 1987. The two groups were regulated (i.e., a group in which both spouses increased the cumulative difference of positive to negative behaviors over the course of a 15-minute discussion of a marital problem) and nonregulated (i.e., a group in which the couples did not). Thus, one variable was employed to divide couples into two groups, the slope of cumulative graphs of positive minus negative speaker codes on the Rapid Couples Interaction Scoring System (RCISS). Regulated couples had significantly positive slopes for both husband and wife, whereas nonregulated couples did not have both slopes significantly positive.

Compared with regulated couples, nonregulated couples were more dysfunctional in a number of domains: (a) marital problems rated more severe (wives), (b) there was poorer health at Time 2 (wives), (c) there was greater cardiovascular arousal (wives), (d) interactions were rated more negative (husbands), (e) there was more negative emotional expression (wives and husbands), (f) there was less positive emotional expression (wives), (g) there was more stubbornness and withdrawal from interaction (wives and husbands), and (h) there was greater defensiveness (husbands). Nonregulated couples were also at greater

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