Psychosocial moderators of emotional reactivity to marital arguments: Results from a daily diary study

Several studies document that marital arguments negatively affect mental health. Yet it is also evident that considerable variability exists in emotional reactivity to marital arguments. One such piece of evidence is that wives are more emotionally reactive than are husbands. Using a close relationships perspective, this study explores reasons for this variability by identifying psychosocial characteristics of individuals and their marriages. The analysis is based on a daily diary study of 166 married couples who completed questionnaires each day for six weeks. These couples represent a subsample of a prior general population community panel study. Results show that wives' emotional reactivity is best explained by a model that includes extraversion, marital trust, being in a first marriage, and the percentage of total family income earned by the wife. Husbands' emotional reactivity is best explained by how frequently the couple argues on average, support from relatives, acute life events, and total family income. The paper concludes with a discussion of the implications for research on the mental health effects of marital distress. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2007 APA, all rights reserved) (from the journal abstract)