Emotional arousal and negative affect in marital conflict: the influence of gender, conflict structure, and demand-withdrawal



This report covers two studies that examined how spouses' emotional arousal and negative affect in response to marital conflict are shaped by gender, conflict structure, and demand-withdraw communication. In Study 1, 86 couples participated in a video analogue presentation procedure, and in Study 2, 32 couples participated in an observational methodology. In both studies, spouses' evaluative reports of their emotional arousal and negative affect were collected within two experimental conditions in which either the husband's or the wife's issue was discussed. In both studies, husbands—but not wives—reported lower levels of post-interaction arousal and negative affect in the wife's issue condition than in the husband's issue condition. In both studies, husbands' as well as wives' level of emotional arousal was positively associated with their level of negative affect. In Study 2, husbands who were less demanding and more withdrawing during marital conflict were less aroused after the discussion. In contrast, wives reported more emotional arousal and negative affect as they were more withdrawing and less demanding, respectively. Copyright © 2005 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.