Date of Award:

2014

Document Type:

Thesis

Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)

Department:

Family, Consumer, and Human Development

Advisor/Chair:

Scot M. Allgood

Abstract

The mode of expression used by individuals, in written or spoken word, offers insight into one’s cognitive and emotional processes. Over the past 25 years expressive writing has become an interest to researchers, therapists, and the public. Writing provides a symbolic way of expressing thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Analytical programs provide a way to study the structure and content of written communication. There is little research that includes marital relationships and expressive writing and no known research that includes marital relationships and writing analyses. In relationships, meanings are created to help make sense of situations and interactions. Symbols also include the process of evaluating relationships.

The present study uses the Linguistic Inquire and Word Count (LIWC) to analyze the writing samples from participants and the Couples Satisfaction Index (CSI) to measure relationship satisfaction. To more fully understand the relationship between writing and couple satisfaction, this study focused on married couples. This study used a dyadic analysis approach so that partner effects could be analyzed.

This study had two main goals: (1) to examine the relationship between first person pronoun use (singular and plural) and marital satisfaction, and (2) to examine the relationship between affective language use (positive and negative) and marital satisfaction. Each of these goals also included exploring possible sex and length of marriage differences.

The results from this study indicate that individuals who use more first person plural pronouns (e.g., we) are more likely to report higher marital satisfaction. This indicates that individual perceptions of couple togetherness are related to higher marital satisfaction. Results also indicate that individuals who use more positive affective language are more likely to report higher marital satisfaction. Also, individuals whose partners use more positive affective language are more likely to report higher marital satisfaction. This suggests that positive affect in relationships is linked to higher satisfaction for both spouses. Although negative affective language was not related to marital satisfaction, if individuals used anger language it was negatively associated with marital satisfaction. This reveals the need for more research on the specific effects of anger on relationship satisfaction. Examining relationships from this new perspective may have valuable implications for couple therapy, interventions, and future research.

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