Depressive Symptomology and Partner-Directed Coping in the Context of Deployment-Induced Transitions
The relationship between marital quality and depressive symptomology has interested scholars for decades. Two prominent theories have commonly been used to inform such investigations: (1) the Stress Generation Hypothesis, which suggests that higher levels of depressive symptomology contribute to lower levels of marital quality; and (2) the Marital Discord Model of Depression, which suggests that lower levels of marital quality contribute to higher levels of depressive symptomology. It has been suggested that, when examined within a dyadic context, the Stress Generation Hypothesis may better characterize actor associations (i.e., associations between one’s own marital behavior and depressive symptomology), whereas the Marital Discord Model of Depression may better characterize partner associations (i.e., associations between one spouse’s marital behavior and the other spouse’s depressive symptomology). Thus, it may be that distressed individuals enact maladaptive marital behaviors (i.e., actor stress-generation effect) that, over time, elevate their partners’ levels of depressive symptomology (i.e., partner marital-discord effect). The main purpose of this study was to evaluate this hypothesis within a sample of military couples coping with deployment-induced transitions. Because deployment-induced transitions are likely stressful, they provide a rich landscape on which to examine associations between psychological adjustment and marital quality within a dyadic context. Data for the current study came from an ongoing, longitudinal study of National Guard families. Study analyses utilized three waves of prospective interview data per couple: (1) predeployment, (2) deployment, and (3) reintegration. Participants included 154 heterosexual, married couples in which service members identified as male. Key constructs were measured with latent variables and included service members’ and significant others’ self-reported depressive symptomology at predeployment and reintegration, as well as significant others’ self-reported partner-directed coping (i.e., active engagement and minimization) during deployment. Data were analyzed within a structural equation modeling framework. Findings provided marginal support for study hypotheses. For example, prior to accounting for stability in depressive symptomology, significant others’ minimization of service members’ concerns during deployment mediated a longitudinal association between significant others’ depressive symptomology at predeployment and service members’ depressive symptomology at reintegration. In addition, significant others were more likely to minimize service members’ concerns during deployment when service members self-reported higher levels of distress at predeployment. These findings enrich our understanding of how, in the context of stressors external to marriage, individuals’ psychological well-being is related to exchanges that take place within marriage. In being guided by both the Stress Generation Hypothesis and the Marital Discord Model of Depression, study findings elucidate specific pathways through which marital quality and individual well-being are related across time and partners. Potential implications for intervention efforts aimed at bolstering couple resilience to periods of prolonged stress and transition are discussed.
MacDermid Wadsworth, Purdue University.
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