Linking stress to the emergence of relational turbulence in marriage

Kellie St Cyr Brisini, Denise Haunani Solomon, Miriam Brinberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The assumption that stress negatively impacts marital relationships is widely accepted; however, the majority of research has focused on marital satisfaction as the outcome of interest. Relational turbulence is a quality of romantic associations on par with—but distinct from—satisfaction, in which partners conceptualize their relationship as chaotic or tumultuous. This paper draws on relational turbulence theory (RTT) and stress spillover research to propose that day-to-day stress corresponds with perceptions of relational uncertainty and interdependence, which contributes to increases in relational turbulence. We evaluated these assumptions using data from 64 heterosexual married partners who experienced work-related disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Spouses completed a pre-test survey, 10 weekly surveys, and a post-test survey over 12 weeks from June to August 2020. Results from longitudinal actor-partner interdependence models indicated that (a) wives' weekly stress corresponded positively with their own partner uncertainty, relationship uncertainty, and perceptions of partner interference, and (b) the magnitude of wives' stress spillover and husbands' change in relational turbulence were positively associated. Implications for RTT and research on stress spillover are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1383-1404
Number of pages22
JournalPersonal Relationships
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Anthropology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies

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