Relationship Functioning Moderates the Association Between Depressive Symptoms and Life Stressors

Joseph M. Trombello, Dominik Schoebi, Thomas N. Bradbury

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Data from 172 newlywed couples were collected over the first 4 years of marriage to test how behaviors demonstrated during marital interactions moderate associations between depressive symptoms and subsequent life stressors. Depressive symptoms and behaviors coded from problem-solving and social support interactions were analyzed as predictors of nonmarital stressors that were interpersonal and dependent on the participant's actions. Behavioral codes were found to moderate 3 of 16 symptom-to-life event associations for husbands. Husbands' reports of more depressive symptoms predicted greater levels of stress when husbands' positive affect and hard negative affect during problem-solving were relatively infrequent and when wives made frequent displays of positive behaviors during husbands' support topics. These effects remained after controlling for marital satisfaction. For wives, behavioral moderators did not interact with depressive symptoms to predict changes in stress, but marital satisfaction consistently interacted with depressive symptoms to predict future stressors beyond interpersonal behaviors. Specifically, for wives, stress generation was more evident when relationship satisfaction was low than when it was high. Our results, though different for men and women, suggest that relationship functioning can alter associations between depressive symptoms and life stress in the early years of marriage.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)58-67
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Family Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2011


  • Couples
  • Depressive symptoms
  • Interpersonal communication
  • Marriage
  • Stress generation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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