Demand-Withdraw in the Marital Context of Depression

Thumbnail Image
Ginting, Jessica V.
Depression , Demand-Withdraw , Marital Relationship , Communication
Consistently researchers have demonstrated that marital interactions of couples with and without a depressed partner differ. Given the high comorbidity of depression and marital distress, it is unclear whether observed communication patterns are due to marital distress or depression. Recent investigations suggest that, after controlling for marital satisfaction, marital communication behaviours may not be specific to depression. However, depressed groups in these investigations may have consisted of individuals with a wide range of acute mood states, thus minimizing differences between depressed and non-depressed mood states. Consistent with cognitive vulnerability models of depression, depressed individuals’ dysfunctional behaviours may manifest only during negative mood states. The first purpose of the present study was to use a mood induction procedure (MIP) to examine whether any marital communication were specific to depression, after controlling for marital satisfaction. The second purpose of the study was to examine whether communication behaviours predicted depressive symptoms at 6-month follow-up. The hypotheses were tested in a sample of 69 couples characterized by a wide range of wife depressive symptoms and couple marital satisfaction. Results of the current study showed that women who endorsed higher depressive symptoms were more likely to use high-level negative demands (e.g., use of angry, belligerent tone) and indirect demands (e.g., use of flirting, whining, or nagging tone) after they received a sad MIP, but depressive symptoms were not related to these behaviours when there was no MIP. Interestingly, depressive symptoms were positively correlated with low-level negative demands (attempts to influence one’s partner in a frustrated, defensive manner) regardless of whether or not wives received a sad MIP. Results also showed that when wives were induced with a sad mood, husbands of wives who endorsed higher levels of depressive symptoms engaged in more positive demands (e.g., use of warmth and understanding). Additionally, preliminary longitudinal data suggest that, wives who engaged in higher levels of high-level negative demands report lower levels of subsequent depressive symptoms. These findings are discussed in light of interpersonal theories of depression.
External DOI