TitleThe communicative and physiological manifestations of relational turbulence during the empty-nest phase of marital relationships
NameNagy, Mary E. (author), Theiss, Jennifer A (chair), Greene, Karthryn (internal member), Yanovitzky, Itzhak (internal member), Knobloch, Leanne K (outside member), Rutgers University, Graduate School - New Brunswick,
SubjectCommunication, Information and Library Studies,
Marital quality ,
DescriptionThe relational turbulence model argues that periods of transition in romantic relationships are ripe for upheaval due to heightened relational uncertainty and interference from partners during transition (Solomon & Knobloch, 2004). This dissertation examines the transition to the empty-nest phase of marriage as a period of relational turbulence. The first goal of this dissertation is to identify sources of relationship change, relational uncertainty, and interference from partners during the empty-nest transition. The second goal of this dissertation is to explore communicative and physiological manifestations of relational turbulence in empty-nest couples. Fifty couples who had entered the empty-nest phase of marriage in the past 18 months were recruited to participate in this study. Participants completed open-ended and closed-ended survey questions about their perceptions of their marriage, provided six saliva samples during the course of the study that were later tested for cortisol, and participated in three videotaped interactions about their marriage. Qualitative analyses of open-ended responses indicated common themes among empty-nesters for changes in the marital relationship, relational uncertainty, and interference from partners. Five themes emerged for changes in the marital relationship: (a) increased couple time, (b) reduced structure and increased freedom, (c) increased communication, (d) increased privacy, and (e) new beginnings; four themes were identified for relational uncertainty: (a) new roles and identities, (b) dependency anxiety, (c) love and intimacy, and (d) growing older; and four themes were identified for interference from partners: (a) relationship facilitation, (b) guilt, (c) forced activity, and (d) household chores. Hierarchical Linear Modeling (HLM) was used to analyze the quantitative and physiological data. Results indicated that the mechanisms of the relational turbulence model predicted self-reported stress and turmoil in empty-nest relationships, as well as topic avoidance, indirectness, and withdrawal in conflict interaction between empty-nest spouses. Results also revealed that indirectness, topic avoidance, and withdrawal during conflict interaction correspond with a more rapid decay of cortisol following the episode, whereas criticism and demandingness are associated with a further increase in cortisol following conflict interaction. These findings, their implications, and directions for future research are discussed.
NoteIncludes bibliographical references
Noteby Mary E. Nagy
CollectionGraduate School - New Brunswick Electronic Theses and Dissertations
Organization NameRutgers, The State University of New Jersey
RightsThe author owns the copyright to this work.