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Studying couples to improve health, better relationships
Date:8/2/2012

eriencing distress or to hinder that person's efforts to feel better."

In an ongoing longitudinal study of 225 newlywed couples, for example, Pietromonaco's team is finding that the way people feel attached to each other affects cortisol levels in response to stress and can possibly predict depression or anxiety over time. Funded by the National Cancer Institute, the study has preliminarily shown that among couples that include a wife who is more anxiously attached who desires a great deal of intimacy and seeks reassurance and support and a husband who is more "avoidantly attached," cortisol levels spike in anticipation of a conflict discussion followed by a sharp decline in cortisol. "In addition, these same anxious wife/avoidant husband couples appear to have more difficulty in discussing the conflict, and their behavior suggests greater disengagement from the discussion."

These patterns, Pietromonaco says, may signal difficulty with emotion regulation, and it is possible that individuals in these couples will be at greater risk for symptoms of depression and anxiety over time. The researchers are following these couples over the first 3 to 4 years of marriage, and will be examining the extent to which the patterns they see now predict changes in emotional health over the early years of marriage.

Pietromonaco and colleagues also recently conducted a review of studies that examine the effects of two-person relationships on a range of health topics in order to create a better framework for future investigations. For example, they point to several studies that show that greater prenatal social support predicts more optimal fetal growth, higher infant birth weight, and reduced risk of low birth weight. But, they caution that such studies need to be replicated and expanded to take into account both perceived support as well as actual support interactions among both partners.

In general, Pietromonaco says that relationship science
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Contact: Lisa M.P. Munoz
spsp.publicaffairs@gmail.com
703-951-3195
Society for Personality and Social Psychology
Source:Eurekalert

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