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Personal Relationships, 14 (2007), 551–569. Printed in the United States of America.

Copyright Ó 2007 IARR. 1350-4126=07

Stress, sex, and satisfaction in marriage

University of Fribourg, Switzerland and bUniversity of California, Los Angeles

Using data from 198 couples, this study examines whether associations between stress occurring outside of the dyad
and key indicators of relationship functioning are mediated by stress arising within the dyad. Findings suggest that
relationship satisfaction and sexual activity are governed by hassles and problems experienced within the dyad that
are in turn related to stress arising outside the dyad. Associations between external stress and relationship functioning are stronger for daily hassles than for critical life events. Higher levels of daily stress predicted less sexual activity for maritally dissatisfied women and more sexual activity for maritally dissatisfied men. Self-reports of stress
covaried with self-reported indexes of satisfaction and sexuality, suggesting that contextual influences are broadly
influential in intimate relationships.

Theorists have expanded the long-standing
view that interpersonal processes are a primary
cause of marital outcomes, in recognition of
the possibility that interpersonal processes
themselves are associated reciprocally with
the stressful events and chronic stressors to
which couples are exposed. Drawing from
earlier models highlighting the influence of
minor hassles (e.g., Burr & Klein, 1994) and
major life events (e.g., McCubbin & Patterson,
1983), these formulations aim to articulate
how these contextual influences intersect with
specific interactional processes and individual
difference variables to produce changes in
satisfaction and relationship stability. Karney
and Bradbury’s (1995; Bradbury & Karney,
2004) theoretical framework, derived from
their meta-analysis of the large literature on
marriage, posits that distress and dissolution

Guy Bodenmann, Institute for Family Research and Counseling, University of Fribourg, Fribourg, Switzerland;
Thomas Ledermann, Institute for Family Research and
Counseling, University of Fribourg, Fribourg, Switzerland;
Thomas N. Bradbury, Department of Psychology, University of California, Los Angeles.
Correspondence should be addressed to Guy Bodenmann,
University of Fribourg, Institute for Family Research and
Counseling, Rue de Faucigny 2, CH-1700 Fribourg,
Switzerland, e-mail:

emerge from the combination of: (a) enduring
vulnerabilities (e.g., problematic personality
traits such as neuroticism, turbulent family of
origin), (b) stressful events (e.g., major life
events, stressful circumstances, normative
transitions), and (c) poor adaptive processes
(e.g., inability to empathize with and support
the partner; defensive, hostile, and disengaged
problem-solving skills). This perspective assumes that marital quality fluctuates downward
as acute life events compromise these adaptive
processes, and these fluctuations are expected
to be especially large when chronic stress is
high (Karney, Story, & Bradbury, 2005).
Bodenmann’s (2000, 2005) model further
specifies the role of internal stress (e.g., negative communication patterns and dyadic conflicts, health problems of one partner) and
external stress (e.g., work stress, financial
stress, stress resulting from the family of origin
and living in impoverished neighborhoods) in
marriage. This framework assumes that
chronic minor stresses, which originate outside the relationship and increase the likelihood of marital tension and conflict, are
particularly deleterious for marriage because
they erode relationship quality slowly and
often outside of conscious awareness. This
model hypothesizes that chronic external stress



G. Bodenmann, T. Ledermann, and T. N. Bradbury

affects marital satisfaction via four mediating
processes: (a) decreasing the time that partners
spend together, which in turn results in a reduction of shared experiences, weakening feelings
of togetherness, decreasing self-disclosure,
and jeopardizing dyadic coping; (b) decreasing
the quality of communication by eliciting less
positive interaction and more negative interaction and withdrawal; (c) increasing the risk of
psychological and physical problems, such as
sleep disorders, sexual dysfunction, and mood
disturbances; and (d) increasing the likelihood
that problematic personality traits will be expressed between partners (e.g., in the form of
rigidity, anxiety, and hostility). These frameworks provide the conceptual basis for the
present work, which tests the premise that
minor and major stresses arising outside the
dyad serves as an exogenous variable that covaries with internal stressors within the dyad,
which then mediates the effects of external
stressors on endogenous variables, including
partners’ global evaluations of the marriage
and sexual intimacy.

tionship, characterized by satisfaction with the
quality and frequency of sex and by the
absence of sexual dysfunction, with greater
feelings of love (e.g., Hendrick & Hendrick,
2002), marital happiness (e.g., Brezsnyak &
Whisman, 2004), and lower levels of marital
conflict (Metz & Epstein, 2002). Studies also
show that stress within the dyad, in the form of
marital tension and conflict, covaries with
lower sexual satisfaction and greater likelihood of sexual dysfunction (e.g., Hurlbert,
Apt, Hurlbert, & Pierce, 2000). Surprisingly,
Morokoff and Gillilland (1993) showed that
desired frequency of sexual intercourse increased with daily hassles for husbands and for
wives. Although we would not expect a positive association between hassles and sexual
desire, it is consistent with McCarthy’s
(2003) view that sexual activity may often
serve to reduce tension as couples contend
with stressors in everyday life or marriage.
Acute life events in the past 6 months, in
contrast, were unrelated to sexual functioning
(after controlling for age) in the Morokoff and
Gillilland study, though unemployed men
experienced more difficulties in sexual performance compared to employed men.

Brief review of research
Research addressing relationship quality and
sexual functioning is beginning to shed light
on the interplay between stress and marital
functioning. Thus, several studies show a significant association between higher levels of
stress and lower levels of relationship satisfaction (e.g., Bodenmann, 2000, 2005; Cohan &
Bradbury, 1997; Harper, Schaalje, & Sandberg,
2000; for a review, see Story & Bradbury,
2004); however, it seems that marital satisfaction is linked more closely to daily hassles than
to critical life events (see Williams, 1995). A
5-year longitudinal study by Bodenmann and
Cina (2006) extends this work by showing that
daily hassles are among the most important
predictors of divorce. Recent studies also
begin to outline the role that distal forms of
stress (e.g., poverty) play in expressions in
warmth and hostility (Cutrona et al., 2003)
and how different forms of stress can interact
to hasten the rate at which marriages deteriorate (Karney et al., 2005).
Stress is also likely to affect physical intimacy. Research links a satisfying sexual rela-

Goals of the present study
The accumulated evidence suggests that the
ecological niche in which couples reside is
associated with the level of satisfaction they
experience and the quality of the communication and physical intimacy they display. At the
same time, a few important shortcomings of
these studies are apparent. First, most of the
studies fail to differentiate between minor
forms of stress, such as daily hassles (see
Lazarus & Folkman, 1984) and major stress,
or they assess only one of these forms of stress.
Second, studies focusing on everyday stress
and daily hassles often do not distinguish
explicitly between stress that is internal and
external to the dyad, which is likely to inflate
correlations with marital processes and outcomes. Third, research examines the association between stress and marriage most often in
relation to such outcomes as marital satisfaction or marital communication. Relatively few
studies examine sexuality, either by itself or in

Hypothesis 3.e. .. and various indexes of sexual functioning (sexual satisfaction. 2005. based on findings suggesting that wives report more stress than husbands (e.... which in turn predicts lower relationship functioning (i. More importantly. Specifically. Bodenmann.. at least partially.g. 1995). Actor–Partner Mediator Model with external stress as exogenous variables. Fourth. and satisfaction 553 conjunction with other marital outcomes. a3w External stress women Internal daily stress women a1w p1w E1w R Endogenous variables women a2w E2w p2w RE2 RE1 p1m External stress men a1m p2m E1m Internal daily stress men a2m Endogenous variables men E2m a3m Figure 1. As shown in Figure 1.e. the association between the stress that one person reports and his or her partner’s marital functioning). Although external critical life events may exert negative effects on marital quality (see Karney et al. sex... internal daily stress as mediators. several of these studies assess individual spouses without corresponding data from their partners. Neff & Karney. 2005). the association between the stress that one person reports and his or her marital functioning) will be greater in magnitude than parallel partner effects (i. Hypothesis 2. This hypothesis is consistent with Bodenmann’s contention that daily hassles are particularly pernicious because they extract a small but persisting cost on individuals and their relationship. As a result. we assume that negative effects of external daily hassles on marital quality will be stronger (Bodenmann. and we know little about the reciprocal effects of the stress experienced by one partner on the marital satisfaction and sexuality of the other. Hypothesis 1. (b) critical life events and daily hassles. we predict that experiences of internal stress within the dyad mediate. 2000.g. we distinguish between (a) stress that is external versus internal to the couple. 2004). and relationship functioning as endogenous variables. Cohan & Bradbury. while also addressing important limitations in existing studies. (c) actor and partner effects. The present report builds on the growing theoretical interest in stress and marriage. Williams. we test the hypothesis that external stress predicts more hassles and higher tension within the dyad. and the empirical literature that supports this interest. 1997) and that wives’ changes in satisfaction appear to be more responsive to stress than those of husbands (e.e. marital satisfaction and sexual functioning). often outside of explicit awareness.Stress. and (d) a range of different facets of marital quality. Karney et al. 2005. the relationship between external stress and relationship functioning. That is. We predict that actor effects (i. we predict that the daily hassles and stress that wives experience within the marriage will be predicted more reliably by husbands’ external stress than the opposite effect. studies have not examined dyadic effects systematically. activity. including marital satisfaction. and dysfunction) in testing the following hypotheses.

in contrast. and 38% were 41 or older.5) versus M ¼ 16.01. . 7% of the men). 2. and T.47.29. couples instead volunteered to participate in response to community-wide newspaper advertisements placed in the German-speaking region of Switzerland. women M ¼ 33. We administered a shortened and adapted version of the original Hassles Scale (Kanner. and employment status).8 (SD ¼ 17. 46% men). type of residence. p . see below).5 (SD ¼ 3. As it is possible that satisfied and dissatisfied couples will vary in their capacity to manage the effects of daily stress on their sexual interactions.9).09 (SD ¼ 7. Although a few participants ended their formal education with elementary school (10% of the women.1 (SD ¼ 3. we will examine whether relationship satisfaction moderates this association.05. M ¼ 6.25). with the exception of sexual activity (assessed with five items rated on 5-point scales: 1 ¼ never. . together with instructions to complete the questionnaires independently and to return the forms to the institute within 2 weeks. however temporarily. . men t(86) ¼ 3. p .4 (SD ¼ 17. 54% were 31–40 years. SD ¼ 1. relationship satisfaction.1) versus M ¼ 39. t(77) ¼ 2. Among dissatisfied couples.05. Ledermann. consisting of 37 of the original 117 items. married and unmarried participants did not significantly differ on any of the variables of interest. we predict that higher levels of daily hassles will covary with higher levels of sexual activity of satisfied couples. occupation. education.001.51. Comparison of married couples with not-married couples showed that unmarried participants were younger. participants completed the following measures.1–36. we relabeled hassles over ‘‘smoking too much’’ and ‘‘use of alcohol’’ as hassles with ‘‘unhealthy behaviors’’). Schaefer.39. representing a convenience sample of 198 intact heterosexual couples. t(68) ¼ Procedure and measures As insufficient resources were available to conduct a random-digit telephone survey of couples.9). 14% were 20–30 years.g. T. . & Lazarus. and reported a shorter relationship duration. Hassles Scale. and 70. Among the women.1 (SD ¼ 16.1 (SD ¼ 16. Nonetheless. We did not pay couples for their participation as it is unusual in Switzerland to pay participants for their participation in this kind of research. t(101) ¼ 7. 1981).554 G. Average relationship duration was 12. as they are likely to possess not only the interactional skills needed to discuss and defuse daily stress but also the propensity to engage in sexual activity when the daily hassles in their lives subside. It is important to recognize that a significant minority of the couples were not married.58 (SD ¼ 5..41) versus M ¼ 14. Following Morokoff and Gillilland (1993). In addition to providing demographic information (age. Among the men. we predict that the association between daily hassles and sexual activity will be weaker or possibly in the opposite direction as daily stress will not be negotiated as well and sexual interaction will become less likely. Coyne. Specifically. Method Participants Three hundred ninety-six individuals residing in the German-speaking part of Switzerland participated in the study. 5 ¼ very often.13. number of children. . we predict that higher levels of daily hassles will predict higher levels of sexual activity. We rephrased terms that seemed redundant (e.5 years).3) versus M ¼ 37.05. relationship duration.50. and 25% were 41 years or older. sex. range ¼ 1. Participants rated all items on . men M ¼ 35. where unmarried participants of both genders reported a higher frequency: women M ¼ 18. 75% of the couples (n ¼ 148) were married. p . marital status. N. 21% were 20– 30 years. Bradbury Hypothesis 4. range ¼ 1–5).6. t(91) ¼ 2.4 years (SD ¼ 7. Bodenmann. 47% of the men) or a college or university degree (42% women. p .8). we relabeled hassles associated with ‘‘planning meals’’ and ‘‘caring for pet’’ as hassles with ‘‘task sharing in household’’.4% had children (M ¼ 1. Couples contacting the laboratory about the study were mailed a packet of questionnaires that included separate and distinct materials for each partner. p .5. 48% were 31–40 years. most earned a terminal high school degree (48% women.

Due to medium correlations between quarrelling and internal daily stress (r ¼ .59. consists of three subscales: quarrelling (item examples: my partner blames me for things that I have done in the past. e. Johnson. . In this version. t(188) ¼ 2. p ..41 for women. 1992) is a 150-item true–false self-report questionnaire designed to assess the nature and extent of marital distress along 11 key dimensions (e. we used only the affection and togetherness scales in forming an index of marital satisfaction (a ¼ .7 (SD ¼ 12. annoying habits of the partner.48 for men). a ¼ . 2 ¼ stressful.1. sex. problems with your partner. time pressures in the family. The mean scores of this combined scale were 10. overload with family responsibilities. my partner shouts at me during arguments.3. German translation by Klann. my partner criticizes me in a sarcastic way.g. Prior longitudinal studies with married couples have shown that measures of this type can yield valid data (e. Cronbach’s a ¼ . a ¼ . range ¼ 29–93) for men.67). or PFB. . death of a friend. The Marital Satisfaction Inventory (Snyder. problems getting along with fellow workers. handicap).001. t(182) ¼ 4.1 (SD ¼ 5. customers or clients giving you a hard time. assesses 27 potentially stressful life events in different domains such as personal injuries (severe illness. different goals.3. range: 10–90). range ¼ 8–39) for women and 14.4. range ¼ 1–35) for men. In this study. and Siegel (1978). 1997. The mean score for external daily stress was 53. Life Events Questionnaire.001. loss of work). p . my partner is affectionate toward me. Partnership Questionnaire. we excluded the subscale ‘‘quarrelling’’ in order to avoid redundancy with internal daily stress.32. a 31-item measure of marital satisfaction. Factor analysis of these responses yielded one factor representing stress external to the dyad (29 items.g.7. a ¼ . Neff & Karney.e. 2000). SD ¼ 15. Hahlweg. .e. and togetherness (item examples: my partner shares his/her thoughts and feelings with me.4. & Hank.75). effective communication.01. sexual dissatisfaction. range ¼ 30–110) for women and 50.34. and social conflicts (severe marital distress.. too many things to do. range ¼ 1–29) for women and 7. work-related events (unemployment. affection (item examples: my partner makes me feel that I am physically attractive for him or her.91). too many interruptions. Participants indicated the degree of stress caused by these life events on a 3-point scale (1 ¼ somewhat stressful.80.g. troublesome neighbors. 1996). and satisfaction 5-point scales (1 ¼ not at all stressful.86) and a second representing stress internal to the dyad (8 items. 1981. t(189) ¼ 0. Mean scores of internal daily stress were 16.90). The Life Events Questionnaire (Bodenmann.0 (SD ¼ 6. The items reflected a range of daily hassles (i. experiences of loss (death of a loved one). 2004).Stress.4 (SD ¼ 4. p . unemployment. neighbors or colleagues at work) within the past 12 months. range: 15–90.0. based upon the Social Readjustment Scale of Holmes and Rahe (1967) and the Life Experiences Survey by Sarason. SD ¼ 15. Sexual satisfaction subscale of the Marital Satisfaction Inventory.g. Cohan & Bradbury. not liking current work duties. 3 ¼ very stressful). The Partnership Questionnaire (Partnerschaftsfragebogen.6 on the PFB and women of 61. r ¼ . 5 ¼ very stressful). changing place of domicile) that did not involve the mar- 555 riage directly in order to avoid redundancy between the independent and dependent variables studied here. financial problems. men reported an average score of 61. In this study.. The total score of the scale used in this study was the combined measure of the occurrence of critical life events multiplied by their stress impact (Cronbach’s a ¼ . Items are rated on a 4-point scale with 0 ¼ never and 3 ¼ very often. t(188) ¼ 4.5 (SD ¼ 11. my partner tells me what he or she had experienced during the day. e. range ¼ 8–28) for men. we included only external major stressors (i.. with considerable variation (for men. friends. having to wait. irritating. demands of task sharing in household. indicating nondistressed couples.84). social obligations. for women.9 (SD ¼ 5. agreement on finances.. severe social tensions with relatives. internal consistency as measured by Cronbach’s a ¼ . or distressing demands in everyday transactions) that participants rated with reference to the previous month.93). ns. frustrating. marital aggression.. .4. Hahlweg.

sexual satisfaction. range ¼ 7–25) for women and 16. T.4. dyspareunia. Fourth. (DSM–IV. t(189) ¼ 6.75. men. We recoded this scale so that higher scores indicated higher satisfaction. high pain. including somatization. Ledermann. men and women rated several potential sexual problems.01.81. 1994).01. 4 ¼ frequently.6 (SD ¼ 13. often. range ¼ 0–233) for women and 30. and sexual activity intercorrelate reliably. Several associations are noteworthy.2. sexual dysfunction appears to be a distinct variable. The internal consistency of the scale was a ¼ . These two variables correlate among men and among women. examples. sexual aversion problems. moderate pain. Participants rated this on a 5-point scale (0 ¼ not at all. This instrument permits evaluation of a variety of concepts.16. measure was 22.63.2. p . range ¼ 0–145) for men. very high pain). range ¼ 0–12. my partner sometimes shows too little enthusiasm for sex. Derogatis (1992) developed Symptom Check List (SCL–90–R). Bradbury and conflict over child rearing). range ¼ 6–73) for women and 14. Users can employ three global scores in research as well as clinical practice.47. p . t(187) ¼ 2. In this study. partner stimulation (massages). suggesting that these dysfunctions do not represent a common underlying construct.7.8 (SD ¼ 40. higher levels of marital satisfaction do . range ¼ 0–12. indicating (a) how often they experienced these problems in the relationship (5-point scale: never. The internal consistency of the scale was . Bodenmann. relationship satisfaction.82.60 for men). Sexual Activity Scale.001. orgasmic problems. with low levels of association with other sexual functioning variables and a nonsignificant association between partners. we used the global severity index to control for a general bias in the perception of the participants with regard to neuroticism. orgasmic problems.3. erectile problems. respectively). In this study. Sexual Dysfunction Scale. Cronbach’s alpha of this variable was less than optimal (. The reliability of this scale was a ¼ . p . we used only the 19-item scale measuring sexual dissatisfaction. suggesting that these are not redundant measures. a 90-item instrument to assess a broad range of psychological problems and symptoms of psychopathology.0. t(187) ¼ 2. p . thus helping to validate the distinction we are drawing between them.556 G.6. range ¼ 5–25) for men. First. 4 ¼ extremely).7.001.69. SD ¼ 3.83. M ¼ 8. acute life events covary reliably with the external stress measure. In this study. Third. and sexual intercourse. t(181) ¼ 7. Designed for this study.0 (SD ¼ 25. obsessive–compulsive problems. 3 ¼ from time to time. rarely. from time to time. we used a combined measure encompassing the frequency of the sexual problems and the selfperceived pain.96.4 (SD ¼ 3. .86. . The average score on the combined Symptom Check List. yet the between-partner correlations are higher for internal hassles (r ¼ . N. this scale assesses the typical frequency of sexual behaviors with five items administered on a 5-point scale (1 ¼ never. Fifth. American Psychiatric Association. and T. oral sex. Women rated sexual desire problems (hypoactive sexual desire).11). sexual arousal problems. my partner has too little regard sometimes for my sexual satisfaction: women. range ¼ 2–77) for men. very often) and (b) how much pain these problems caused (4-point scale: no pain.60 and . SD ¼ 3.46) than for external hassles (r ¼ .0 (SD ¼ 9. 4th ed. M ¼ 7. Behaviors assessed include petting.68 for women and . Results Bivariate correlations among measures Intercorrelations among the study variables are shown in Table 1. The mean score was 17. men rated sexual desire problems (hypoactive sexual desire).0 (SD ¼ 3. and vaginismus. . . anxiety and hostility. and sexual pain problems. premature ejaculation. factor analysis of the hassles measure produced distinguishable indexes of hassles that are internal and external to the dyad. Second. The mean score was 49. as we would expect (rs ¼ . interpersonal sensitivity. Following the diagnostic categories of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. sexual aversion problems. 5 ¼ very often). depression. 2 ¼ rarely. yet these measures share less than 20% of their variance.

61*** .24*** . Kenny & Cook.45 for women). which takes into account the interdependence of data collected from dyadic partners.19** .03 .63*** 1.02 .63*** 2.29*** 2. 2.44*** . Sexual dysfunctions 5.00*** 557 Note.02 .15* . It is. The path models used in this study with direct actor effects (horizontal .12* 2.05. .46*** .09 2.01 2.14* 2.45*** .00 2. 2000.35 for men. Sexual activity 4.07 2.21** 2. however.07 2. two manifest mediator variables.09 .41*** . Internal daily stress 6. and satisfaction covary with lower levels of internal daily stress (r ¼ 2.17** 2.28*** 2. Age 10.03 2. .30*** . 2006).01.63*** .29j (marital satisfaction) and j.36*** .16* 2. Kenny.73*** .45*** 2. Kashy.20** 2.65j (internal daily stress) in women and between j.56*** .22** 2.13* 2. External daily stress 7.48*** .31*** . To control for this effect.62*** 2.25*** 2.09 .43*** .37*** 2.34*** . including two manifest exogenous (independent) variables.06 2. This does suggest a modest degree of confounding between these measures.23*** 2. for women (above diagonal) and men (below diagonal) and dyads (along the diagonal) 10 Stress. **p . This model is an extended version of the widely used Actor–Partner Interdependence Model (APIM) proposed by Kenny and colleagues (e.22** 2.27*** . As relationship duration was not highly correlated with any dependent variable.23*** 2.g.15* 2. We present correlations between the dyad members in bold along the diagonal.07 2.00 2.29*** . the study variables are generally performing as expected and further multivariate analyses are warranted. *p .74*** .06 1.26*** 2. the APIM is a saturated model with 0 df.48*** .11 2. In sum.27*** .33*** .14* 2. The classic APIM yields an estimation of the effect of one’s own independent variable on one’s own dependent variable (actor effect) and on the partner’s dependent variable (partner effect).13* . Fletcher & Thomas.35*** . The Actor– Partner Mediator Model outlined in Figure 1 consists of six pairwise variables (three per partner). Sexual satisfaction 3. and two manifest endogenous (dependent) variables. r ¼ 2.48j (external and internal daily stress) in men.39*** . 1999). 1996. which allows for the analysis of mediator effects in studies using dyadic data. Using manifest variables. sex.60*** .04 2.17* .16* .00 . Statistical analyses: Investigating mediation with dyadic data We tested hypotheses using the Actor–Partner Mediator Model (see Campbell. Intercorrelations among study variables.01 2.64*** .25*** .45*** 2.10 2.73*** 2.03 .23*** 2.14j (sexual activity) and j. we did not control for it.20** 2. Simpson.49*** 2.64*** . Duration of relationship .35*** 2. conceivable that personal vulnerability creates a general bias with regard to participants’ ratings of stress as well as their evaluation of marital functioning. Critical life events 8.22** 2. SCL–90–R ¼ Symptom Check List. Intercorrelations among the study variables and the SCL–90–R total score ranged between j.2..36*** . SCL–90–R total score 9.11 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 Variables Table 1.65*** .14* 2.001 (one tailed). & Fletcher.30*** 2.30*** 2.17** .08 2. Marital satisfaction 2.11 . 2001.07 . ***p . . Ledermann & Bodenmann.65*** 2. we partialled out overall psychological distress (SCL–90–R total score) from all self-report data.63*** .27*** 2.44*** 2.15* 2. N ¼ 198 men and 198 women.42*** .68*** .

actor effects relating external daily stress and internal daily stress were statistically significant. These findings. partner effects) within one model by means of model comparisons comparing the default model with a nested model assuming equal parameters. and values . ^ 2b^ are the estimated var^ 2a^ and r respectively. the comparative fit index (CFI). The standard error will be estimated by Sobel’s (1982) approximate formula that MacKinnon and his colleagues (MacKinnon. r ^ ^ and b. If the path models with 2 df fit the data well. z¼ ^ ^b a ^ a^b^ r ð1Þ ^ denotes the estimated indirect ^b where a effect between X (exogenous variable) and Y (endogenous variable) through M (mediator). for women and for men. and M / Y. The assumption of complete mediation is—assuming good model fit—supported if the direct effects between external stress and the marital variables are not significant. . Partial mediation can be inferred in the association between the exogenous and endogeneous variables if one or both of these direct effects are significant. Ledermann. N.g. Bradbury arrows) between the exogenous and endogenous variables have 2 df. 2002. Association between external daily stress and internal daily stress. root mean square error of approximation (RMSEA). are consistent with Hypothesis 1. Lockwood. We used the z statistic to evaluate the mediation effects between the exogenous and endogenous variables. p ¼ . When the direct actor effects between external stress (exogenous variable) and marital functioning variables (endogenous variables) are not Actor–Partner Models with external daily stress as exogenous variables The estimated maximum likelihood coefficients of the Actor–Partner Mediator Models with external daily stress as exogenous variables and internal daily stress as the mediator are shown in Table 2. the relationship between the exogenous and endogenous variables is completely mediated by internal stress.95 for CFI and . we use chisquare. which indicate that the relations between external daily stress and marital functioning are at least partially mediated by internal daily stress. and (c) the mediation effect is significant using Equations 1 and 2. We tested differences between parameters (e. To evaluate the fit of a particular structural model.05 indicate a good fit.08 indicate an acceptable fit. As partner effects were not significant and as women’s actor effect were significantly higher than the partner effect from men to women (v2Diff ¼ 9:45. Warsi. RMSEA values . As readers can see in Table 2 (bottom).558 G. MacKinnon. ^ a^b^ represents the estimated standard and r error of the indirect effect.002). all models with daily stress fit the data well. & Sheets. West. . We will assume that parameters are statistically different when the chi-square difference test is significant. We tested differences between coefficients across different models by computing the 95% confidence limits using Fisher’s Z transformation. who suggest a cutoff . As shown at the top left side of Table 2. According to Browne and Cudeck (1993). we can assume that direct partner effects (diagonal arrows) between exogenous and endogenous variables are statistically irrelevant. T. We can say that a substantial difference exists if the confidence interval of one effect excludes the coefficient of another effect. actor vs. iances of a The hypothesis holds that internal daily stress mediates the relation between exogenous variables (represented here as external stress) and endogenous variables (represented by marital functioning variables) when (a) the models show an adequate fit. however. we found that actor effects were more important than the . and T. & Dwyer.. with significant. (b) the direct effects constituting a mediation effect are significant. then this assumption is verified.. 1995) recommend: ^ a^b^ r rffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffi ^2 r ^2 r ^ 2^ 1 b ^2 ¼ a b ^ a ð2Þ ^ denote the estimated structural ^ and b where a coefficients of the path X / M.. Bodenmann. and the fit criteria proposed by Hu and Bentler (1999).06 for RMSEA. Hoffman.

25*** 2.34*** .19** .49*** Marital satisfaction 16 24 14 .04 .04 .31*** Fixed at 0 .06 . p 1w Women / men.04 .34*** .25*** .52*** 16 24 14 . R Between error terms 1.00 16 24 19 .02 .01 .33*** 2. and satisfaction 559 .25*** .29*** Marital satisfaction 16 8 14 .13* 2. R E1 Between error terms 2.22*** .34*** .49*** Sexual dysfunction 16 8 18 .38*** . p 2m External stress / endogenous variable Actor effects Women.23*** 2.08 . a 2w Men. R E2 Explained variances R 2w internal daily stress women (%) R 2m internal daily stress men (%) R 2w endogenous variable women (%) Source 2.38*** . a 2m Partner effects Men / women.31*** 2.49*** Sexual satisfaction .33*** . a 1w Men.27*** .29*** Sexual activity Models with acute life events (continued) 16 8 7 .14* .27*** Fixed at 0 Fixed at 0 Fixed at 0 .23*** .35*** 2. Actor and partner effects (maximum likelihood estimates).00 .00 . a 1m Partner effects Men / women.55*** 2.12 2.08 .20** .25*** .12 2.21** 2.60*** .31*** .23*** 2.29*** Sexual satisfaction 16 8 14 . correlations. sex.20** .11 . and model fits for the Actor–Partner Mediator Model with internal daily stress as mediator and the overall distress (Symptom Check List [SCL–90–R]) as covariables Stress.26*** .33*** 2.08 .01 .03 2.29*** Sexual dysfunction Table 2. p 1m Internal daily stress / endogenous variable Actor effects Women.52*** Fixed at 0 Fixed at 0 2.10 .25*** .34*** .18** .27*** 2.08 .03 .38*** .08 .55*** Fixed at 0 Fixed at 0 2. a 3m Correlations Between exogenous variables.23*** 2.27*** .27*** 2.60*** Fixed at 0 Fixed at 0 2.49*** Sexual activity Models with external daily stress 16 24 7 .23*** 2.02 .20** 2. a 3w Men.10 .External stress / internal daily stress Actor effects Women.29*** 2.31*** .23** 2.10 .38*** .05 .27*** .23*** 2.31*** 2.24*** 2.15* 2.13* 2.31*** . p 2w Women / men.10 .22** 2.00 .23*** 2.25*** .

536 2 .362 1. T. *p . the estimates of the model with critical life events and sexual satisfaction cannot be interpreted.009 19 0. Ledermann. Bodenmann. and T.035 2 . **p . but two significant associations—involving marital satisfaction and sexual activity—for men. indicating that men who reported higher levels of external daily stress also reported higher levels of marital satisfaction and sexual activity.000 . the partner was more likely to report lower levels of marital satisfaction.004 4 .000 .000 . Bradbury Sexual dysfunction 560 corresponding partner effects.656 3 .060 G. This suggests that internal daily stress may be affected more by one’s own external daily stress than by the partner’s external daily stress.958 . we found significant partner effects between internal daily stress and relationship functioning.094 16 5. Actor effects were consistent in demonstrating that higher levels of internal daily stress covaried with lower levels of marital satisfaction.000 . and sexual activity.027 . covary with poorer relationship functioning. we found no significant associations for women.062 . With the exception of the sexual dysfunction variable.079 21 11. With respect to direct actor effects between external daily stress and indexes of relationship functioning variables. sexual satisfaction. and with higher levels of sexual dysfunction. It is noteworthy that these effects may not be separate and distinct as the bivariate correlation between . This finding has to be considered in the context of the mediator model analyses because the correlations between external daily stress and the two outcome variables sexual activity and marital satisfaction are negative (see Table 1).144 2 930 1.039 1 1. Among men. Specifically. .765 1. these findings are in line with our first hypothesis that daily stress and tension within the dyad.000 R 2m endogenous variable men (%) v2 df p Comparative fit index Root mean square error of approximation Sexual activity Sexual satisfaction Source Marital satisfaction Sexual satisfaction Sexual activity Sexual dysfunction Marital satisfaction Models with acute life events Models with external daily stress Table 2. The SCL–90–R total score was partialed out from all manifest variables.05. as reported both by one’s self and the partner. .975 . . Association between internal daily stress and relationship functioning.270 .967 . 11 8. for men and for women.000 12 0.01. ***p . to the extent that one spouse reported more daily stress and tension in the relationship. these positive direct effects are substantially lower than the effects between external daily stress and internal daily stress and between internal daily stress and the two outcome variables marital satisfaction and sexual activity (see Table 2).000 21 2. These direct associations were positive. As a group.647 1.969 4 . sexual satisfaction.Note. (continued) 1 8.130 .001 (one tailed). and sexual activity. Association between external daily stress and relationship functioning.994 . Due to a poor model fit.169 4 .511 5 . N.

000.38 for the effect from men to women and 2. Actor–Partner Models with acute life events as exogenous variables The analyses just described were repeated using acute life events as the exogenous vari- 561 ables. both actor– partner indirect effects were substantial. and . Because the two direct effects between the exogenous and endogenous variables were small in all four models.081 and . sexual activity. Given the 95% confidence limits of the actor effects between external and internal daily stress (. Association between acute life events and internal daily stress. the effects between critical life events and internal daily stress were significantly lower than those obtained between external daily stress and internal daily stress. these findings suggest that couples experiencing higher levels of external daily stress also experience higher levels of stress and tension within the dyad and.000. p ¼ . Tests of mediation. As shown in Table 2.74 for women and . v2(3) ¼ 2. sex. (This was also true for men but not for women when using the 95% confidence limit of the coefficients between critical events and internal daily stress.12 and . the findings suggest that the relations between external daily stress and sexual satisfaction and between external daily stress and sexual dysfunction are completely mediated. . they were excluded. and (to a moderate extent) more sexual dysfunctions.55 for women.16 and . Consistent with Hypothesis 1. in turn.38 for women and . With respect to the distinction between partial and complete mediation.10 and . and the results of the z statistics for the mediation effects consisting of two significant direct effects.06. and two partner– partner). in the remaining three models. though only in the case of acute life events reported by men and internal daily stress reported by women. Poor fits were obtained for the model that included sexual satisfaction and thus we do not discuss this model further.) Partner effects were also apparent. In the Actor–Partner Mediator Model tested here.561. CFI ¼ 1. which was mainly due to a weak actor effect from internal daily stress to sexual dysfunctions in men.29 vs. Equations 1 and 2 were used to test for significance.73 for men (see Table 1). except for the model with sexual dysfunctions as endogenous variables. which were .06 for the effect from women to men support Hypothesis 2: The association between . The first model analyses reveal poor fits for all models with direct paths between the exogenous and endogenous variables (RMSEA ranged between . The model without direct effects between the exogenous and endogenous variables counts 4 df and assumes that the relations between acute life events and the marital outcome variables are completely mediated by internal daily stress. There was one exception.40 for women and .44 for men. Apart from the model with sexual dysfunction. however: In the model with sexual dysfunction.22 and . to test the prediction that acute life events are less consequential than daily hassles in predicting daily stress within the relationship (Hypothesis 3). both indirect effects involving two actor effects were significant. whereas the associations between external daily stress and marital satisfaction and sexual activity are partially mediated by internal daily stress due to substantial direct actor effects between the exogenous and endogenous variables in men. The other four mediator effects including partner effects between external and internal daily stress were not significant in all four models with external daily stress as exogenous variables.132). lower levels of relationship and sexual satisfaction.25 vs. two partner–actor. we obtained good fits for the models that included marital satisfaction and sexual activity—with respect to RMSEA— an acceptable fit resulted for the model that included sexual dysfunction (see Table 2. To evaluate mediation effects. we found no significant actor– actor effect for men. standard errors. .49 for men. see Table 2). In all four models with external daily stress as exogenous variables.68 for men).27 and . In contrast. all actor effects were substantially weaker than corresponding effects between external daily stress and internal daily stress (. RMSEA ¼ . two actor– partner. bottom). In Table 3 we present the estimated indirect effects.40 and .Stress. we can distinguish eight indirect effects (two actor–actor. The confidence limits of . and satisfaction marital satisfaction and sexual activity is .

298 22.08 to 20. and T.040 20.037 0.003 22.012 .200 0.06 20.743 Xw / Mw / Ym ¼ A / P 20.76 .002 .02 to 0.109 0.00 20.326 Xm / Mm / Ym ¼ A / A 20.00 .006 .964 0.002 .64 .07 to 20.302 23.048 2.55 to 20.01 20. N.28 to 21.006 0.002 .45 to 20.91 to 20.00 0.512 Xw / Mw / Ym ¼ A / P 20.21 Note.07 to 20. Bradbury Table 3.01 to 0.008 .238 2.016 22.275 21.301 Xm / Mw / Yw ¼ P / A 20.058 23.330 Xm / Mw / Ym ¼ P / P 20.003 22.007 0.038 0.71 to 20. The formula used to compute normal 95% confidence interval is ^ ^ ^ ^cb^ .07 to 20.12 . IE ¼ indirect effect.911 Xm / Mm / Yw ¼ A / P 20.965 1. Bodenmann.059 APMeM with critical life events and sexual dysfunctions Xw / Mw / Yw ¼ A / A 0.01 to 0.01 20.104 0.038 p (two tailed) 95% confidence interval .26 22.014 1.161 Xm / Mm / Yw ¼ A / P 20. cb61:96 r . T.01 to 20.001 .984 0.004 .065 23.032 .372 22.017 22.378 23.867 0.018 22.00 .036 0.28 21.649 1.562 G.029 . and marital functioning as endogenous variables Effect IE SE z APMeM with external daily stress and marital satisfaction Xw / Mw / Yw ¼ A / A 20.31 to 20.06 20.187 Xw / Mw / Ym ¼ A / P 20.12 to 20.020 .065 Xm / Mm / Ym ¼ A / A 20.65 to 20.485 0.053 2. internal daily stress as mediators.27 to 20.274 0.07 to 0.47 21.363 22.29 to 20.790 20.007 0.465 Xw / Mw / Ym ¼ A / P 20.011 . w ¼ women.003 22.015 20.625 APMeM with critical life events and marital satisfaction Xw / Mw / Yw ¼ A / A 20.007 0.05 22.01 to 20.532 Xm / Mm / Ym ¼ A / A 1.242 0.000 20.031 .008 .020 .002 22.003 22.453 Xm / Mm / Yw ¼ A / P 1.021 .737 APMeM with external daily stress and sexual satisfaction Xw / Mw / Yw ¼ A / A 21.152 0. A ¼ actor effect.061 0.167 0.003 21.09 20.015 22.960 APMeM with external daily stress and sexual activity Xw / Mw / Yw ¼ A / A 21.358 0.000 .07 to 0.550 Xm / Mm / Ym ¼ A / A 20.00 0.425 APMeM with critical life events and sexual activity Xw / Mw / Yw ¼ A / A 20.009 . we present mediation effects only for those models in which both direct effects were significant.506 Xw / Mw / Ym ¼ A / P 20.13 1.657 Xm / Mm / Yw ¼ A / P 20.174 0.103 0.48 3.34 to 5.430 22.042 0.109 Xw / Mw / Ym ¼ A / P 20.424 Xm / Mm / Yw ¼ A / P 20.537 Xm / Mw / Ym ¼ P / P 20.057 23.011 .053 23.20 0.00 0.707 1.007 0.007 0.01 to 20.150 Xm / Mw / Yw ¼ P / A 0.651 .43 .648 Xm / Mm / Ym ¼ A / A 21.040 0. m ¼ men.24 to 20.43 21.68 to 20.038 0.960 APMeM with external daily stress and sexual dysfunction Xw / Mw / Yw ¼ A / A 2.000 21.497 0.602 Xm / Mw / Yw ¼ P / A 20.88 to 20.371 23. In this table. Equation 1 was used to compute z scores.01 20.19 4.078 .015 . Ledermann.00 0.018 22.002 22.01 20.01 to 20.042 0.37 to 20. Mediation effects for the Actor–Partner Mediator Models (APMeM) with external stress as exogenous variables. standard error was estimated by means of Equation 2.00 0.01 to 20.763 Xm / Mm / Ym ¼ A / A 21.00 to 0.125 .017 22.163 Xm / Mm / Yw ¼ A / P 20.25 21. P ¼ partner effect.282 1.

the predictors (external daily stress) and moderators (marital satisfaction) were centered as recommended by Aiken and West (1991) among others. Partner effects relating internal daily stress to marital satisfaction were also evident for men and for women.001. .56. 2. and sexual dysfunction were comparable in magnitude to corresponding effects found in the models with external daily stress except the associations between men’s internal stress and men’s marital satisfaction and sexual activity that appeared to be weaker in the model with acute life events than the parallel associations obtained in the model with external daily stress (2. .05) and for men . both actor–actor mediation effects were significant. where only women’s actor–actor indirect effects were substantial (Table 3).39) than their reports of external daily hassles (r ¼ . Simpson. Nonsignificant mediation effects involved the effect from women’s life events to men’s internal stress. . see Table 1). . p . together with the interaction between satisfaction and hassles for each partner.18 vs. df ¼ 9. Daily external hassles. respectively.10. p . Most importantly. We tested the Actor–Partner Moderator Model (Campbell. six of the eight mediation effects were significant. In all three models. Marital satisfaction as a moderator of the association between daily external hassles and sexual activity.16. p . and satisfaction women’s internal daily stress and men’s acute life events is stronger than the association between men’s internal daily stress and women’s acute life events. As noted. 2. 2006) in which men’s and women’s sexual activity were predicted by marital satisfaction and external hassles of both partners. p .048). As above. Partially consistent with this prediction. Significant actor and partner effects were obtained for women’s marital satisfaction (.001. . respectively). Ledermann & Bodenmann.06. producing less turmoil within the dyad in turn. this pattern of results is consistent with the notion that acute life events are more likely to be shared experiences and hence are more likely to be recognized mutually.Stress.28.33.001. p . Association between internal daily stress and relationship functioning.50. In an effort to build upon Morokoff and Gillilland’s (1993) finding that daily hassles and sexual activity would covary positively. corresponding figures for acute life events were 16% and 8%. The differences in the magnitude of the effects in the models with external daily stress and the models with critical events derived from the different model specification (one with direct actor effects between external stress and marital functioning having 2 df. .25). CFI ¼ . sexual activity. In the model with sexual dysfunction. As in the first set of analyses. This Actor–Partner Moderator Model fit the data well (v2 ¼ 13.001. and 2. . in contrast. with the exception of the model with acute events. Tests of mediation. are more likely to be unshared experiences that are managed at the individual level and thus may evoke greater tension in the partners. for men or for women. To avoid multicollinearity. there were no partner effects relating internal daily stress to sexual dysfunction. sex. Equations 1 and 2 were used to test mediation effects. . only the association between men’s critical events and men’s sexual dysfunction via women’s internal stress was significant.22 vs. the other without direct actor effects between the exogenous and endogenous variables having 4 df) and the substantial direct actor effects between external daily stress and marital 563 satisfaction and between external daily stress and sexual activity in men. Given that partners are more similar in their reports of acute life events (r ¼ . the results summarized in Table 2 show that external daily stress accounted for 16% of the variation in women’s internal daily stress and 24% of the variation in men’s internal daily stress. & Rholes. Kashy.991. in Hypothesis 4 we predicted that this association would be moderated by marital satisfaction. Actor effects relating internal daily stress to marital satisfaction.11. In the model with marital satisfaction and sexual activity. the actor effects relating the interaction of daily hassles and marital satisfaction to sexual activity were significant for women (. 2001. respectively) and for men’s marital satisfaction (. p . Hypothesis 3 predicts that external daily hassles would account for more variation in internal daily stress than would acute life events. RMSEA ¼ .33.

0 0. Association between external daily stress and sexual activity as moderated by level of marital satisfaction.0 15. Ledermann.0 5. Among the most satisfied women. marital satisfaction. and T. among women who are at or 1 SD below the Wife's sexual activity 25. In contrast.0 10. and 1 SD below the mean in marital satisfaction.0 -2 2 Wife's external stress centered low marital satisfaction medium marital satisfaction high marital satisfaction Husband's sexual activity 25.0 15. The figures for women (top) and for men (bottom) show that the moderating effects of satisfaction on the association between daily hassles and sexual activity take different forms for women and for men. T. for women (top) and for men (bottom).13. This model was tested using two measures of external stress (i. Bodenmann. Note. external daily hassles and acute life events).e. N.0 5. Figure 2 presents these interactions by showing the associations between daily hassles and sexual activity for individuals 1 SD above the mean.. and four variables hypothesized to reflect relationship functioning (i. Cohen.e. at the mean.0 20.0 -2 2 Husband's external stress centered low marital satisfaction medium marital satisfaction high marital satisfaction Figure 2. p .0 10. Following Cohen. and sexual dysfunction).0 20. sexual activity.0 0.01). . one mediator (daily stress and tension arising within the relationship).564 G.. . West. sexual satisfaction. sexual activity does not appear to vary much as a function of daily hassles. corresponding partner effects were nonsignificant. Bradbury (2. and Aiken (2003).

Second. which extends the APIM (e. particularly for women’s outcomes. we aimed to test recent theoretical statements that assert that intimate relationships cannot be understood with- 565 out reference to the contexts in which couples reside and specifically argue for distinguishing between stressors that are external and internal to the intimate dyad (see Bodenmann.g. We can infer that different goals of the partners. 2004). indicating that external stress reported by men covaried more strongly with wives’ experience of daily relationship tension than vice versa. though not a higher level of sexual dysfunction. in the sense that stress does not appear to have adverse effects on women’s sexual activity when their satisfaction is high and that higher levels of stress appear to covary with lower levels of sexual activity when their satisfaction is lower. sex. and satisfaction satisfaction mean. Third. our predictions about the moderating role of marital satisfaction were only partly correct: Levels of sexual activity in the face of daily hassles were not higher among the most satisfied couples. Thus. Three sets of associations support this claim. partners reporting higher levels of stress arising outside the dyad also reported higher levels of stress and tension within the dyad. Kenny. Results support previous findings indicating that stress might play an important role in understanding marital functioning. sexual satisfaction. and they permitted tests of internal stress as a mediator of associations between either form of external stress and relationship outcomes. and actor and partner effects were analyzed in all models. At least with the cross-sectional design used here. the sexual activity of satisfied men. Among men as a group. Partner effects were also evident. and annoying habits (operationalized here as stress arising within the dyad) often become harmful for the relationship when partners are stressed by . sexual activity tends to increase as daily hassles increase. First. and sexual activity declined with increases in daily hassles only for relatively distressed women but not for relatively distressed men. Discussion This study evaluated the associations among stressors arising outside of marriage (in the form of acute life events and daily stress). and sexual activity. divergent needs. In undertaking this study. We tested mediational hypotheses using the Actor–Partner Mediator Model proposed by Ledermann and Bodenmann (2006). and relationship functioning (indexed by marital satisfaction and sexual variables). For men who are at or 1 SD below the mean in marital satisfaction. in the models suggesting partial mediation. 2005. sexual activity tends to decline with increasing levels of daily hassles. as with women. 2000. spouses experiencing more stress as arising within the relationship tended to have lower levels of marital satisfaction. and this association appears to be stronger among those men with lower satisfaction. appears to be relatively independent of daily hassles. and higher levels of sexual dysfunction. and they tended to have partners with lower levels of marital satisfaction. whether measured as daily hassles or acute life events. These two latter results were relatively weak though reliable. 1996) often used with dyadic data. it seems that internal stress mediates the association between two forms of contextual variables—external daily hassles and critical life events—and key aspects of marital functioning such as marital satisfaction and sexuality. In contrast. Neff & Karney. men reporting more daily hassles external to the relationship reported more marital satisfaction and more sexual activity.Stress. This pattern of results is not surprising. like that of maritally satisfied women. But unlike the pattern obtained for women. higher levels of daily hassles correspond with higher levels of sexual activity when men are at or below the sample mean in satisfaction. results provided support for the mediational framework outlined in Figure 1 and represented by Hypothesis 1. stressors arising within the relationship (in the form of daily relationship stresses and strains). and sexual activity.. the sexual activity of relatively satisfied men does not appear to vary much as a function of their daily hassles. sexual satisfaction. our most basic prediction in Hypothesis 4—that higher levels of daily hassles will covary with higher levels of sexual activity—was supported. In short. Data were collected from both partners in 198 couples in established relationships. In general.

566 G. Of course.. Second. At least two design modifications are needed to understand these associations more fully. This possibility is consistent with recent research showing that whereas men and women are quite similar in delivering social support to one another in laboratory settings (e. internal daily hassles Cohen’s d ¼ 0. the results of this study demonstrate that various indexes of external stress are not all associated to the same degree with relationship functioning. consistent with Hypothesis 2. external daily hassles may elicit less empathy and understanding from the partner. being criticized by a superior) may cause a great deal of stress that can spill over to affect one’s work life and social relationships. Higher levels of external daily stress did predict higher levels of stress within the dyad but to a lesser degree daily stress also predicted higher levels of satisfaction and sexual activity for men.23. Bradbury external circumstances. First. in the form of depression) is beyond the scope of this study.g. Neff & Karney. and T. Second. Bodenmann. diary data on the environmental challenges and interpersonal processes implicated here would help to pinpoint the ways in which stress operates on intimate relationships. Ledermann. women outpace men in how responsive they are to the partner’s need for support (Neff & Karney. almost by definition. these same relationship issues become less salient to partners and their relationship functioning can improve (Bodenmann. respectively. their objectively rated intensity is typically low. and this can exert a greater influence on the equilibrium that couples seek to establish. First.. 1993. associations between external daily stress and tension experienced within the dyad were stronger than those involving acute life events (cf. N. spouses may find it easier to attribute their internal stresses to salient life events than to more subtle and ordinary daily hassles. which maintains that even an event that is objectively rated as trivial (such as missing the bus. though future studies might benefit from investigating longer term health outcomes in relation to men’s daily stress and women’s interpersonal responses to this stress. The present findings are therefore in line with the transactional stress theory of Lazarus and Folkman (1984). partners experience the accumulation of everyday stress more frequently. and sexual activity (2. T. Morokoff & Gillilland.23). 2.20. Williams. for models involving external daily stress). as the partner might not be aware of these hassles. 2005). and 2. may have covaried more highly than acute life events with internal stress because acute life events were assessed over a 12-month period and were likely to be a less salient influence on couples.22) were comparable to parallel effects relating husbands’ internal stress to these same variable for wives (2. Understanding whether the burden of absorbing the partner’s stress and providing better support than they receive is detrimental for the long-term health of women (e. 2000.26). 2000. Third. 2004). coming late to an appointment. Despite evidence that wives reported higher mean levels of all forms of stress in this study (acute life events Cohen’s d ¼ 0. A third key finding provided support for the idea that higher levels of stress can enhance couple functioning (Hypothesis 4). 1998). Pasch & Bradbury. when external stresses are reduced. In particular. measured as a proximal variable.20.33). sexual satisfaction (2. Bodenmann.13. 1995). The positive association between daily stress and sexual activity is consistent with an earlier . Couples may in turn invoke distinct coping efforts that will allow them to manage and resolve these acute events. Why might this be? First. Three additional findings merit detailed discussion. husbands did not appear to pay a price for this: Partner effects relating wives’ internal daily stress to husbands’ marital satisfaction (2. analyses of samples in which couples are under unusually high levels of external stress might yield different results. external daily hassles Cohen’s d ¼ 0.g. external daily stress. and the impact of this kind of stress is likely to be underestimated. It is possible that the levels of external stress studied here were not sufficiently destabilizing or detrimental to the marital interaction behaviors couples would typically use to manage stressful events and circumstances.32. We can speculate that wives may be particularly good at absorbing and not radiating the stress that husbands encounter outside the relationship and that wives are particularly adept at identifying moments at which support efforts are most needed.

Stress. between chronic and acute stressors (e. and sexual interaction among satisfied and dissatisfied men and women. 2005). is not a uniform experience. It is noteworthy. though only for women. display less positive support as wives’ negative affectivity increases (Pasch. 2006. and apart from the impact ratings collected here. for example. Sixth. To explore these possibilities in greater detail. that intradyadic correlations were high for internal stress (. unemployment. we can make no claims about how individuals or couples might respond to across-time fluctuations in daily hassles or life events. To the extent that they are a relatively stable feature of an individuals’ sexual life. 1993).g.11). Fifth. The results shown in Figure 2 suggest that a different process operates when distressed women experience high levels of daily hassles. as levels of sexual activity were about the same in satisfied men and women. were expected to report lower levels of sexual activity when stress was high than when it was low. which leaves open the possibility that individual differences in personality factors are contributing to the effects observed here. Interpretation of the present results must be qualified by several factors. sexual dysfunctions may be somewhat independent of contextual influences. and this increased contact may promote sexual interaction. Second. Ledermann. 2003).. and these supportive acts may bring the couple closer together but not eventuate in sexual interaction. men may not be particularly adept at providing support to their distressed and stressed partner. these wives report less sexual activity than their equally stressed counterparts who are in more satisfying relationships. Men may be at least as supportive as women.46) and critical life events (. Morokoff & Gilliland. Relatively dissatisfied spouses. Prior . & Galluzzo. the hassles and life events that were assessed here may vary dramatically between respondents. Among similar lines. we need further research that tracks daily stress. Other studies have profitably distinguished. though here we demonstrated that the nature of this association varies as a function of marital satisfaction. the crosssectional nature of this study makes causal inferences impossible. the opposite pattern was obtained: Those reporting higher levels of daily hassles reported higher levels of sexual activity. and satisfaction study by Morokoff and Gillilland (1993. the use of a convenience sample limits generalizability to the larger population of couples. First. for example. by virtue of being more resilient to stress and more responsive to one another. however. We hypothesized that satisfied couples. sex.. Alternatively. regardless of their reported levels of daily stress (see Figure 2). additional data are needed to establish the generalizability of the present findings. For relatively dissatisfied men. at least within Westernized societies. accordingly. would engage in more sexual activity to the extent that external daily stresses provided them with opportunities to interact and provide one another with validation and compassion. Blattner-Bolliger. & Davila. supportive interactions. in that wives display more positive support to the extent that 567 the husband is higher in negative affectivity. also see McCarthy. these variations were not well measured. however. suggesting that no general bias could be observed. partners might recognize the inherent strengths of their relationship and thus enjoy higher levels of satisfaction and sexual activity. on the other hand. though we do not expect cultural contexts to moderate associations between stress and relationship functioning.39) but rather low for external daily stress (. Third. but that distinction could not be pursued here because duration of stress exposure was not assessed. men. we have no independent assessment of stress. On the basis of these moments of heightened interaction. Bodenmann. the relatively weak pattern of results relating stress and sexual dysfunction suggests the need for further study on this association (cf. An observational study of social support behaviors in couples provides support for this latter interpretation. Though we must resort to speculation on this point. much like we anticipated for satisfied spouses. Fourth. opportunities for supportive exchanges may be lost and. This idea was not supported. This aspect of Hypothesis 4 was supported. Bradbury. Karney et al. this result suggests that the daily hassles experienced by men who are relatively dissatisfied might provide opportunities for couples to join together against a common adversary. 1997).

which in turn covary with daily hassles and. Russell. L. as our findings suggest that ineffective management of daily hassles may produce relationship conflicts and tension within the relationship. Notwithstanding these limitations. E.. Newbury Park. Kashy. Bodenmann & Shantinath. (2000). further analysis of couples’ ecological niches may reveal that protecting the emotional climate within a marriage from the harmful effects of external stressors is a compelling alternative (e. J. The Couples Coping Enhancement Training (CCET): A new approach to prevention of marital distress based upon stress and coping. 136– 162). & Aiken. D. the acute life events they encounter outside the relationship. critical life events and sexual problems. S. A. Melby.. ... and flexibility of ideals in close relationships.g. (2006). dependence. Couples coping with stress: Emerging perspectives on dyadic coping (pp. Negative life events. C. Stress and coping among stable-satisfied.. S. 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