Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Faculty of Science

First Advisor

Michael Pratt

Advisor Role

Thesis Supervisor


Most married couples experience conflict and disagreement in their relationships. However, some couples deal with this conflict more effectively than do others. Although something is known about patterns of marital interaction, little is known about what predisposes couples to engage in harmonious or conflictual interactions. It seems that factors such as personal predispositions should play a role in couple communication. The present study investigated the association between romantic attachment styles and specific aspects of couple communication. Thirty-nine couples experiencing the transition to parenthood participated in a discussion of a real-life conflict of their own choosing; The discussion was videotaped and coded with the Specific Affect Coding System developed by Gottman (1988). Participants also completed two self-report measures: the Adult Attachment Scale (Collins & Read, 1990) and the Marital Adjustment Scale (Locke & Wallace, 1959). It was hypothesized that: (1) more martially distressed couples should show more negative and less positive affect on the Gottman observational scales, (2) more romantically secure individuals should report higher levels of marital satisfaction than would insecure individuals, (3a) both men and women who were more secure on the attachment measure should display both less negative and more positive interactional behaviors in the couple discussion overall, (3b) men's attachment styles should be the best predictor of the quality of couple interaction. Specifically, men's security should predict less negative and more positive affect in both men and women. Results indicated that, for both men and women, marital adjustment scores were significantly related to both positive and negative interactive behavior in the discussions in predicted ways. More secure individuals also reported greater marital satisfaction and had partners who were more satisfied. Correlational findings regarding attachment and interactional behaviors indicated that when females were more secure they displayed less negative emotional behavior. For males, greater security was related to more positive interactive behaviors. Finally, regression analyses did indicate that the partner's attachment style was a significant predictor of both positive and negative emotional behavior for women, and of negative emotional behavior for men. These findings emphasize the importance of a secure partner when dealing with conflictful discussions, and the substantial role of the husband's attachment style for the prediction of the overall quality of couple discussions. These findings are consistent with previous evidence on the importance of the husband's role in these types of marital problem—solving interactions (e.g., Gottman, 1991), but provide the first examination of the relations between romantic attachment dispositions and emotional expression in such discussions.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season