Interpersonal Behavior Differences During Conflict Discussions in Couples with Depression
Potthoff, Andrea L.
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Depression research suggests that there is a strong link between depressive symptoms and marital distress (Weissman, 1987). For the past several decades, numerous theories have attempted to explain this correlation by describing the interpersonal behaviors of romantic couples in which one partner is depressed. Although these theories differ substantially, they all suggest a consistency of behavior across situations. However, emerging evidence on the social . functioning of depressed individuals, suggests that the interpersonal behavior of depressed individuals can be affected by subtle changes in their social environment, specifically in instances of perceived inferiority (Zuroff, Fournier, Moskowitz, 2007). Thus, it is important to examine how the interpersonal behavior of couples with a depressed partner changes across different situations in order to truly understand the link between depressive symptoms and marital distress. Specifically, participants were instructed to discuss two conflict topics, identified by the depressed partner and non-depressed partner, respectively. Participants were 21 heterosexual couples in which one partner met the criteria for major depressive disorder or dysthymic disorder. The behavior of the depressed patients and non-depressed partners was analyzed separately across the two conditions using the Structural Analysis of Social Behavior (SASB) coding system (Benjamin, 1996). Results indicate that depressed patients exhibited more submissive behavior in the partner conflict discussion than in the patient conflict discussion. This finding suggests that the interpersonal behavior of couples with a depressed partner does change across situations, something that the current interpersonal theories of depression fail to acknowledge.