This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Exploring Dyadic and Longitudinal Associations between Couple Relationship Skills, Perceived stress, and Sleep Quality among Couple Relationship Education Participants




Wei, Menglin

Type of Degree

Master's Thesis


Human Development and Family Science


Couple relationship education (CRE) has been used as one of the primary prevention methods targeting couples’ relationship functioning. Considerable evidence suggests that CRE programs are effective in improving couples’ relationship satisfaction, family harmony, relationship stability, and mental health outcomes. However, only a few studies have considered the implications of CRE programs on indicators of physical health. To build upon and extend recent findings that CRE positively impacted participants’ sleep quality as well as elements of couple functioning immediately post-program, with effects sustained over 1 year, this study investigated the dyadic links between specific behaviors emphasized in CRE (i.e., conflict management skills, caring for partner skills, and self-care skills), perceived stress, and sleep concurrently, as well as between the specific CRE behaviors and sleep prospectively and within dyad. We used assumptions from interdependence theory, social support, and social control theory to frame the empirical models. The sample for this study was 308 different-sex couples randomly assigned to receive a CRE curriculum. The sample was racially and economically diverse. Overall, couples’ conflict management skills and self-care skills were both associated with individuals’ sleep quality. Further, women but not men’s conflict management skills were associated with their partners’ sleep quality; whereas men but not women’s self-care skills were related to their partner’s sleep quality concurrently. Further, men and women’s conflict management skills were both indirectly related to their own and their partner’s sleep quality through their perceived stress level. Similarly, perceived stress also served as an indirect link between men and women’s self-care skills and their own sleep quality. Results from a series of actor-partner interdependence structural equation models (SEM) revealed the dyadic cross-lagged effects over a 1-year period between couple relationship skills and sleep functioning. Over time, we found that positive changes in men and women’s sleep quality from baseline to immediately post-program predicted improvements in their own conflict management skills 1 year later. Enhancements in women’s conflict management skills predicted better sleep quality for themselves. We also found that improvements in men’s self-care behaviors predicted better sleep quality for themselves and their partners. These findings provide some evidence of both directional and bidirectional influences between relationship functioning and sleep and adds to knowledge of change processes following CRE participation. The study also further validates the benefits of current practices in CRE to emphasize improvements in these couple relationship skills and may suggest an additional emphasis on and discussion of the links between sleep and couple functioning.