Date of Award

12-2014

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Child and Family Studies

Major Professor

Spencer B. Olmstead

Committee Members

John Orme, Elizabeth Johnson, Pricilla Blanton

Abstract

Using multiple theories, three studies examined the association between relationship quality, individual wellbeing (e.g., psychological distress), and gender across multiple time points. In Study 1 applied life course theory concepts (e.g., roles, role configurations, role trajectories) and second order latent class analyses were then conducted. Using four relationship role trajectories were identified from these analyses. Relationship role trajectories differed on wellbeing, wherein individuals in stable marriages with higher satisfaction consistently reported greater wellbeing (i.e., lower depression and higher life satisfaction).

Study 2 sought to determine the direction of the association between individual wellbeing and relationship quality. This study specifically examined if this direction differed for positive or negative dimensions of wellbeing and for men and women. Notably, relationship satisfaction and life satisfaction were mutually influential over three time points, but life satisfaction was only related to later conflict in a single direction. Additionally, depression was only related to later relationship conflict and relationship satisfaction for women.

Lastly, Study 3 examined how changes in relationship quality and gendered manifestations of psychological distress (i.e., depression and alcohol use) differed by gender. The study also sought to understand how changes in one manifestation of psychological distress and changes in relationship quality were related and how this association differed for men and women. Women reported lower initial levels of relationship quality and alcohol use but higher initial levels of depression. Men and women differed on change in alcohol use, with women decreasing less than men. Finally, both change in alcohol use and depression were related to change in relationship quality for women, but not men. The reverse direction did not differ by gender, although change in relationship quality was related to change in depression for both men and women. Implications for future research, policy, and mental health practitioners are discussed in each study.

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