Longitudinal Effects of Conflict Behaviors on Depressive Symptoms in Young Couples

Heidemarie K. Laurent, Hyoun K. Kim, Deborah M. Capaldi

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21 Scopus citations


This study investigated relationship dynamics contributing to gender differences in depression by testing longitudinal associations between observed conflict behaviors and depressive symptoms in young couples. Direct effects of psychological aggression, positive engagement, and withdrawal, as well as indirect effects via relationship satisfaction were considered. Participants were 68 heterosexual couples involving men from the Oregon Youth Study who remained in a stable relationship across at least 2 and up to 10 years from their early 20s to early 30s. Hierarchical linear modeling was used to test both between-couples differences in symptom trajectories predicted by partner behaviors and within-couple covariation between behaviors and depressive symptoms across 5 time points. Higher levels of women's positive engagement predicted lower symptom levels for both partners, and higher women's withdrawal predicted higher own symptom levels. Relative increases in couples' psychological aggression and decreases in positive engagement were additionally associated with increases in women's symptoms over time. Whereas between-couples behavior effects on women's symptoms were mediated by relationship satisfaction, within-couple effects proved independent of satisfaction. Implications for mechanisms of depression risk and maintenance in couples are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)596-605
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Family Psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Psychology


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