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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Gender differences in spouses’ coping with marital tension Daylen, Judith Lynne


This study provides an examination of gender differences in the coping process of married couples dealing with naturally occurring marital tension. Emphasizing the interpersonal aspects of marital coping, this study examined spouses' reports of their use of confrontation, compromise, and withdrawal strategies and the relationship between spouses' coping reports and their own mood and their partner's mood. The data analyzed in this study were drawn from a community sample of 168 heterosexual, married couples who completed daily structured diaries for a six-week period. The diary questionnaires assessed each spouse's daily reports of marital tension or arguments, appraisals of marital tension, their own coping and their perceptions of their partner's coping (scored using both raw and relative coping values), and daily reports of mood. Analyses of the daily responses across the diary period revealed that wives reported proportionately more days in which marital tension occurred than did their husbands. In addition, wives were significantly more distressed by the occurrence of marital tension than were their husbands. Analyses of a subset of the data (n = 59 couples) in which both spouses within a couple reported marital tension on the same day revealed no gender differences in spouses' appraisal of marital tension or in their coping with marital tension. Significant gender differences emerged, however, in the extent to which spouses' distress was related to their own coping or their partner's coping. The findings from this study suggest that the influence of gender operated at the initial level at which spouses reported the existence of marital tension, but when both spouses agreed that marital tension had occurred, husbands and wives tended to report dealing with marital tension in similar ways. The role of gender also operated in the relationship between coping and spouses' mood. These gender similarities and differences are discussed in relation to the gender-based demand-withdraw patterns reported in the previous literature. The results of this study suggest that gender differences found in studies with maritally distressed couples who respond to reenacted marital conflict may not generalize to community residing couples dealing with naturally occurring marital stressors in their day-to-day lives.

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