Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

How couples recover after an argument stems from their infant relationships

Date:
February 19, 2011
Source:
Association for Psychological Science
Summary:
When studying relationships, psychological scientists have often focused on how couples fight. But how they recover from a fight is important, too. According to a new study, couples' abilities to bounce back from conflict may depend on what both partners were like as infants.

Couple after a conflict. If your caregiver is better at regulating your negative emotions as an infant, you tend to do a better job of regulating your own negative emotions in the moments following a conflict as an adult.
Credit: iStockphoto/Jacob Wackerhausen

When studying relationships, psychological scientists have often focused on how couples fight. But how they recover from a fight is important, too. According to a new study published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, couples' abilities to bounce back from conflict may depend on what both partners were like as infants.

Researchers at the University of Minnesota have been following a cohort of people since before they were born, in the mid-1970s. When the subjects were about 20 years old, they visited the lab with their romantic partners for testing. This included a conflict discussion, when they were asked to talk about an issue they disagreed on, followed by a "cool-down" period, when the couples spent a few minutes talking about something they saw eye to eye about.

Although the cool-down period was included just to make sure the researchers weren't sending the couples away angry, Jessica E. Salvatore, a Ph.D. student at the University of Minnesota, noticed some interesting things about the couples' communication styles during this recovery time. "As part of another project where we looked at how couples fight, I would often catch a few minutes of this cool-down period," she says. Salvatore noticed that some couples had intense conflicts, but made a perfectly clean transition to chatting about something they agreed on. In other couples, one or both partners seemed "stuck" on the conflict discussion and couldn't move on.

With Sally I-Chun Kuo, Ryan D. Steele, Jeffry A. Simpson, and W. Andrew Collins, all from the University of Minnesota, Salvatore embarked on a closer look at what happens after a conflict supposedly ends. By looking back at observations of the participants and their caregivers from the 1970s, when they were between 12 and 18 months old, the researchers discovered a link between the couples' conflict recovery behaviors and the quality of their attachment relationship with their caregivers. People who were more securely attached to their caregivers as infants were better at recovering from conflict 20 years later. This means that if your caregiver is better at regulating your negative emotions as an infant, you tend to do a better job of regulating your own negative emotions in the moments following a conflict as an adult.

The researchers also found that there is hope for people who were insecurely attached as infants. "We found that people who were insecurely attached as infants but whose adult romantic partners recover well from conflict are likely to stay together," remarked Salvatore. "If one person can lead this process of recovering from conflict, it may buffer the other person and the relationship." The health of a relationship can be salvaged if one person can quickly disengage from conflict and avoid dwelling on negative thoughts and emotions.

This is some of the first evidence that romantic partners play an important role in buffering the potential harmful effects from poor experiences earlier in life. "That, to us, was the most exciting finding," Salvatore says. "There's something about the important people later in our lives that changes the consequences of what happened earlier."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Association for Psychological Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. J. E. Salvatore, S. I.-C. Kuo, R. D. Steele, J. A. Simpson, W. A. Collins. Recovering From Conflict in Romantic Relationships: A Developmental Perspective. Psychological Science, 2011; DOI: 10.1177/0956797610397055

Cite This Page:

Association for Psychological Science. "How couples recover after an argument stems from their infant relationships." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 February 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110218142453.htm>.
Association for Psychological Science. (2011, February 19). How couples recover after an argument stems from their infant relationships. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110218142453.htm
Association for Psychological Science. "How couples recover after an argument stems from their infant relationships." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110218142453.htm (accessed October 1, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Do Video Games Trump Brain Training For Cognitive Boosts?

Do Video Games Trump Brain Training For Cognitive Boosts?

Newsy (Sep. 29, 2014) More and more studies are showing positive benefits to playing video games, but the jury is still out on brain training programs. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Your Spouse's Personality May Influence Your Earnings

Your Spouse's Personality May Influence Your Earnings

Newsy (Sep. 26, 2014) Research from Washington University suggest people with conscientious spouses have greater career success. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Can A Blood Test Predict Psychosis Risk?

Can A Blood Test Predict Psychosis Risk?

Newsy (Sep. 26, 2014) Researchers say certain markers in the blood can predict risk of psychosis later in the life. The test can aid in early treatment for the condition. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Harpist Soothes Gorillas, Orangutans With Music

Harpist Soothes Gorillas, Orangutans With Music

AP (Sep. 25, 2014) Teri Tacheny, a harpist, has a loyal following of fans who appreciate her soothing music. Every month, gorillas, orangutans and monkeys amble down to hear her play at the Como Park Zoo in Minnesota. (Sept. 25) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins