This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Language Style Matching and Older Adult's Marital Satisfaction




Burke, Benjamin

Type of Degree

Master's Thesis


Human Development and Family Studies


Poor marital communication is a leading reason that couples seek therapy. Because of its importance in marriage, marital communication is one of the most studied aspects of relational functioning. In fact, recent works have demonstrated that even similarity in function words (e.g., articles, prepositions) is associated with relational functioning in younger couples. Given the unique developmental challenges and opportunities in later adulthood (e.g., health challenges but greater emotional positivity), the current study was conducted to see if language style matching (LSM) had similar associations in a sample of 64 older adult, heterosexual married couples. Utilizing transcripts from two different conversational tasks (reminiscence and problem-solving), we calculated the rate of LSM between spouses during each conversation task and then averaged to capture it globally. Hierarchical linear regressions revealed that overall LSM was related to marital satisfaction, but only for wives. A similar link between context specific LSM and wives’ satisfaction was also found, but only during reminiscence. The results ultimately suggest that LSM still plays a role in the communication of older couples, one of particular importance for wives during reminiscence. Therefore, clinicians working with older adults may benefit from utilizing behaviorally focused interventions targeting couples’ language use during reminiscence.