Problem-solving skills and affective expressions as predictors of change in marital satisfaction

Matthew D. Johnson, Joanne Davila, Ronald D. Rogge, Kieran T. Sullivan, Catherine L. Cohan, Erika Lawrence, Benjamin R. Karney, Thomas N. Bradbury

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

179 Scopus citations


Specific skills and affective expressions coded from the problem-solving interactions of 172 newlywed couples were examined in relation to 8-wave, 4-year trajectories of marital satisfaction. Effects varied as a function of whether husbands' versus wives' topics were under discussion and whether husbands' versus wives' satisfaction was predicted, but results indicate that skills, affect, and their statistical interaction account for unique variance in rates of change in marital satisfaction. The interaction between positive affect and negative skills was particularly robust, indicating that (a) low levels of positive affect and high levels of negative skills foreshadowed particularly rapid rates of deterioration and that (b) high levels of positive affect buffered the effects of high levels of negative skills. Findings suggest specific targets for intervention in programs for developing marriages.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)15-27
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of consulting and clinical psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2005

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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