Psychology, Department of


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Journal of Marriage and Family 84:2 (2022), pp. 494–514.

doi: 10.1111/jomf.12798


Copyright © 2021 National Council on Family Relations. Published by Wiley. Used by permission.


Objective: The objective of the current study was to examine associations between daily subjective stress and relationship satisfaction as a function of two protective factors—partner support and connection (i.e., intimacy, passion, and commitment)—among couples during pregnancy. Background: Stress brought into the intimate relationship by each partner is often associated with relational dissatisfaction and discord, referred to as stress spillover. Although much research has focused on risk for poor relational outcomes associated with partner stress, it is equally important to focus on resilience. Method: We examined this phenomenon among 154 couples navigating pregnancy. Couples attended an initial laboratory session and then completed daily diary measures from home across 14 days. Results: Multilevel modeling techniques revealed that higher daily subjective stress than usual was negatively associated with relationship satisfaction that day for fathers and mothers, and partner support and connection attenuated this link to a significant degree. As these protective factors increased, the strength of the negative association between daily stress and relationship satisfaction decreased for both parents. Exploratory analyses showed no significant within-person associations between daily stress and next-day relationship satisfaction at any level of support or connection. Conclusion: These findings add innovative components to the investigation of the spillover process, including the examination of this process among couples during pregnancy, utilization of daily diary methods to study this phenomenon on a micro-level over time, and identification of protective factors mitigating daily stress spillover.

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