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Family Process

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Post-print: the version of the article having undergone peer review but prior to being published


Despite the pivotal role that emotion regulation is thought to occupy for individual and relational wellbeing, emotion regulation in couples has been surprisingly understudied. With a clinical sample consisting of 275 couples starting therapy from 2017 to 2022, this study sought to clarify the actor and partner effects of clinical couples' emotion dysregulation on relationship satisfaction. Our results showed that, for partners' emotion dysregulation dimensions, while impulse control difficulties, lack of emotional awareness, and limited emotion regulation strategies were negatively predictive of couple relationship satisfaction, nonacceptance of negative emotions had a positive association with relationship satisfaction. Further, compared with other dimensions of emotion dysregulation, female limited emotion regulation strategies were greater predictors of decreased female relationship satisfaction. We also found significant gender differences in partners' emotion dysregulation dimensions and relationship satisfaction. These results show the significance of addressing emotion dysregulation for both partners at intra- and inter-personal levels simultaneously in couple therapy. Notably, the 275 couples in our sample did not report a clinically distressed relationship, though they attended at least one couple therapy session. Clinical implications and directions for future study are discussed.

Original Publication Citation

Xu, M., Johnson, L. N., Anderson, S. R., Hunt, Q., Bradford, A. B., Banford Witting, A., Bean, R., & Miller, R. B. (2023). Emotion dysregulation and couple relationship satisfaction of clinical couples: An actor-partner interdependence model. Family Process, 62, 1555–1573.

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