Prospective Associations From Family-of-Origin Interactions to Adult Marital Interactions and Relationship Adjustment

Citation:

Whitton, S. W., Waldinger, R. J., Schulz, M. S., Allen, J. P., Crowell, J. A., & Hauser, S. T. (2008). Prospective Associations From Family-of-Origin Interactions to Adult Marital Interactions and Relationship Adjustment. Journal of Family Psychology , 22 (2), 274-286.

Abstract:

To test the social learning–based hypothesis that marital conflict resolution patterns are learned in the family of origin, longitudinal, observational data were used to assess prospective associations between family conflict interaction patterns during adolescence and offspring’s later marital conflict interaction patterns. At age 14 years, 47 participants completed an observed family conflict resolution task with their parents. In a subsequent assessment 17 years later, the participants completed measures of marital adjustment and an observed marital conflict interaction task with their spouse. As predicted, levels of hostility and positive engagement expressed by parents and adolescents during family interactions were prospectively linked with levels of hostility and positive engagement expressed by offspring and their spouses during marital interactions. Family-of-origin hostility was a particularly robust predictor of marital interaction behaviors; it predicted later marital hostility and negatively predicted positive engagement, controlling for psychopathology and family-of-origin positive engagement. For men, family-oforigin hostility also predicted poorer marital adjustment, an effect that was mediated through hostility in marital interactions. These findings suggest a long-lasting influence of family communication patterns, particularly hostility, on offspring’s intimate communication and relationship functioning.

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