This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Intra-individual systemic shifts: Linkages between relationship quality and depressed affect in a diverse sample of relationally distressed Couple and Relationship Education (CRE) participants




Bradford, Angela

Type of Degree



Human Development and Family Studies


The negative association between depression and marital satisfaction has been clearly documented, with theoretical approaches describing the direction of effects as depression leading to marital dissatisfaction (Stress Generation Model) and marital dissatisfaction leading to depression (Marital Discord Model). Therapy approaches have found that treating the relationship of relationally distressed couples can result in positive changes in relationship satisfaction and depression. However, it is possible that many relationally distressed couples do not attend therapy. Because there is evidence that they are attending Couple and Relationship Education (CRE), we examined whether relationally distressed participants of a CRE program reported shifts in depressed affect and/or relationship quality after program participation. We found that reported depressed affect decreased and relationship quality increased after program participation. In order to test whether shifts in constructs predicted each other, we fit two separate models. In the first model, informed by the Marital Discord Model, shift in depressed affect was the outcome variable, and we examined whether these shifts were predicted by shifts in relationship quality. In the second model, informed by the Stress Generation Model, shift in relationship quality was the outcome variable, and we examined whether these shifts were predicted by shifts in depressed affect. Results indicated that shifts in relationship quality were predicted by shifts in depressed affect, and shifts in depressed affect were predicted by shifts in relationship quality. Additionally, the relationship between shifts was not moderated by sex, ethnicity, or marital status. We recommend that interventionists utilize an inclusive approach when working with relationally distressed couples, devoting attention to the relationship as well as individual distress variables.