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J Fam Psychol. 2014 Aug;28(4):460-9. doi: 10.1037/a0037160. Epub 2014 Jun 16.

When couples disconnect: rumination and withdrawal as maladaptive responses to everyday stress.

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Department of Psychology.


Previous research has highlighted the importance of examining the interpersonal context of stress and coping. How individuals in a relationship respond to one another and cope with stress together have important outcomes on both individual and dyadic levels. The current study sought to examine 2 deleterious coping responses, rumination and interpersonal withdrawal, as they relate to occupational stress and interact in the home setting. An intensive longitudinal design was employed in a sample of 87 couples in which 1 partner was working as a paramedic. Over a period of 4 consecutive work shifts, daily reports of marital tension, spouses' withdrawal, and paramedics' work stress, burnout, and rumination were collected. Multilevel models incorporating actor and partner effects examined daily associations. Supporting our first and second hypotheses, significant associations were observed between paramedics' work stress and subsequent rumination and withdrawal on the part of paramedics. Paramedics' work-related burnout also predicted increased withdrawal from their respective spouses. Regarding the role of these coping responses in daily marital functioning, paramedics' rumination and spouses' withdrawal were associated with increased marital tension over the 4-day period. On days when spouses withdrew more from the relationship, the associations between paramedics' rumination and both partners' reports of marital tension were greater, supporting our third hypothesis. These findings illustrate the importance of examining both partners' coping responses as they interact to predict marital tension. They further underscore the maladaptive nature of rumination and withdrawal specifically in an interpersonal context. Potential implications for collaborative coping are discussed. (.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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