News Release

Factors influencing relationship satisfaction

Peer-Reviewed Publication

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

The enduring qualities of both spouses shape their behavioral interactions, which in turn predict changes in relationship satisfaction, a study suggests. By some estimates, up to half of marriages in many Western countries end in divorce. One central challenge in relationship science is to identify the factors that contribute to declines in marital satisfaction. James McNulty and colleagues pooled data from 10 long-term studies of 1,104 married couples to test the Vulnerability-Stress-Adaptation (VSA) model of change in relationship satisfaction. The studies contained both spouses' self-reports of three enduring qualities, namely neuroticism, attachment anxiety, and attachment avoidance, as well as observational measures of engagement and oppositional behaviors during problem-solving discussions, and repeated reports of both spouses' stress and marital satisfaction over several years. Consistent with the VSA model, the effect of both spouses' qualities on satisfaction was entirely explained by their behavioral interactions. Additional support for the model derived from the fact that stress moderated both the effect of enduring qualities on behavior and the effect of behavior on satisfaction. In contrast to the VSA model, stress minimized rather than accentuated the effect of enduring qualities on behavior. According to the authors, the findings underscore the complex interplay among enduring qualities, stress, and behavior in relationship science.


Article #21-01402: "How both partners' individual differences, stress, and behavior predict change in relationship satisfaction: Extending the VSA model," by James K. McNulty, Andrea L. Meltzer, Lisa A Neff, and Benjamin R. Karney.

MEDIA CONTACT: James McNulty, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL; email: <>

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