Date of Award:

12-2008

Document Type:

Dissertation

Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department:

Psychology

Advisor/Chair:

Renee V. Galliher

Abstract

Adult attachment theory offers a promising conceptual framework for understanding the psychological and contextual factors that contribute to marital satisfaction. A consistent association has been found between adult attachment dimensions and marital satisfaction. The current study examined several mediating mechanisms that may explain the relationship between adult attachment dimensions and marital satisfaction. Specifically, relationship expectations, four types of responses to accommodative dilemmas (exit, neglect, voice, and loyalty), and three forms of empathy (empathic concern, perspective taking, empathic personal distress) were hypothesized to mediate the relationship between adult attachment and marital satisfaction. Self-report data were collected from both partners of 193 heterosexual, married couples. The attachment dimension of avoidance for husbands and wives was consistently associated with each couple member's respective marital satisfaction. Attachment anxiety was never directly associated with either husbands' or wives' marital satisfaction. Wives' marital satisfaction was explained by their own relationship expectations and exit responses. Additionally, wives' marital satisfaction was explained by their husband's relationship expectations, exit responses, empathic perspective taking, and loyalty responses. Husbands' marital satisfaction was explained by their own relationship expectations, exit responses, neglect responses, voice responses, loyalty responses, and empathic perspective taking. Results are discussed in light of current theories of adult attachment and marital satisfaction.

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