The relationship between marital interaction behaviors and affective reactions to one's own and one's spouse's self-evaluation needs


  • The research reported here was supported by funds form the National Institute of Mental Health (Grant No. 1RO1MH41487-01)given to the second and third authors.

  • The authors would like to thank Elaine Bond for her helpful comments on drafts of this manuscript, Richard Wakefield for his assistance in the collection of data, and Rick Crelia for his help in computer programming.

should he addressed to Marilyn Mendolia, Department of Psychology, The University of Mississippi, University, MS 38677.


A recent extension (Beach, & Tesser, 1993) of Tesser's self-evaluation maintenance model (SEM: Tesser, 1988) proposed that a person's motivation to feel good about the self, and his or her concern for the partner's need to feel good about the self, can affect the couple's interaction behavior. In the present study, individual differences in the motivation to maintain one's own and one's partner's SEM needs are used to predict the couple's problem-solving discussion behaviors. Fifty-three married couples were videotaped for 20 minutes while discussing an important relationship issue on which there was disagreement. From these video records, husbands' and wives' favorable and unfavorable discussion behaviors were coded. During a subsequent session, couples reported their affective reactions to a number of SEM scenarios recalled from memory, which were used to create an individual difference measure representing the strength in motivation to maintain one's own and one's partner's self-evaluation needs. In general, husbands' and wives' responsiveness to their partners' SEM needs was associated with favorable interaction behavior, whereas responsiveness to one's own SEM needs was associated with unfavorable interaction behavior. The results of this study suggest that the extended SEM model provides an experimental framework that incorporates research directed at both the elucidation of individual differences and the examination of the couple as a unit.