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Behav Res Ther. 2008 Feb;46(2):253-62. doi: 10.1016/j.brat.2007.11.007. Epub 2007 Nov 28.

Do event-contingent diaries about marital conflict change marital interactions?

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Notre Dame, Haggar Hall, Notre Dame, IN 46556, USA.


Recent increase in the use of diary measures has prompted questions about the effect completing diaries has on participants. After extensive training, married couples completed event-contingent diaries about their couple disagreements for 15 days, focusing on emotional and behavioral aspects of marital conflict. Serving as a control for placebo effects of participation, the diary group (n=110) and a non-randomized control group (n=57) also completed brief daily checklists, with minimal training, over the reporting period. Before and after the reporting period, couples engaged in videotaped conflict-resolution tasks that were coded for conflict behaviors and emotions expressed. ANOVAs comparing groups indicated that completing event-contingent diaries for 15 days had no apparent effects on observed husbands' and wives' expressed emotions and behaviors during marital interactions. Parental reports on the brief daily diaries indicated minimal differences between the groups in global measures of marital functioning. At the same time, husbands' self-reports in the home indicated decreasing perceptions of marital quality over the recording period. Thus, although no differences in conflict tactics emerged based on observed marital interactions in the laboratory, certain self-reports of responding suggested potential reactivity effects.

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