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J Fam Psychol. 2007 Jun;21(2):218-26.

Demand-withdraw communication in severely distressed, moderately distressed, and nondistressed couples: rigidity and polarity during relationship and personal problem discussions.

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Graduate School of Education and Psychology, Pepperdine University, Malibu, CA 90263-4608, USA.


This study investigated demand-withdraw communication among 68 severely distressed couples seeking therapy, 66 moderately distressed couples seeking therapy, and 48 nondistressed couples. Self-report and videotaped discussions replicated previous research, demonstrating that greater demand-withdraw during relationship problem discussions was associated with greater distress and that overall, wife-demand/husband-withdraw was greater than husband-demand/wife-withdraw. Results extended the conflict structure view of demand-withdraw by indicating that this gender polarity in demand-withdraw roles varied in strength and direction depending on who chose the topic for discussion, distress level, and marriage length. Further, in videotaped personal problem discussions, typical gender patterns of demand-withdraw were reversed. Across the relationship and personal problem discussions, a pattern of gender polarity emerged when husbands held the burden of changing.

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