Document Type


Date of Degree

Summer 2016

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Rehabilitation and Counselor Education

First Advisor

Wojciak, Armeda Stevenson

First Committee Member

Wadsworth, John

Second Committee Member

Ali, Saba

Third Committee Member

Estrada-Hernandez, Noel

Fourth Committee Member

McGeorge, Christi


Romantic relationship factors have been linked to both physical and mental health outcomes. Previous research has lacked attention not only on associations among these constructs, but on ways by which gender attitudes and beliefs impact romantic heterosexual relationships. The Biobehavioral Family Model (BBFM) is a biopsychosocial approach to health that integrates couple/family emotional climate, biobehavioral reactivity (emotion regulation), and physical health outcomes into one comprehensive model. The present study was conducted to examine the ability of the BBFM to explain connections between couple processes and health while integrating an additional construct of gender attitudes and beliefs. The sample consisted of 595 adults (age range 18-65+ years) who have been in committed romantic relationships for at least two years. Data were collected through online surveys which asked participants about their relationship satisfaction, mental health symptoms, physical health, and attitudes and beliefs about gender in relationships. Confirmatory factor analyses were used to test measures of romantic partner emotional climate, gender attitudes and beliefs, biobehavioral reactivity, and disease activity. Structural equation modeling was used to test associations among all constructs. Results demonstrated some support for the BBFM in explaining health quality for the sample. Specifically, romantic partner emotional climate was positively associated with biobehavioral reactivity, and gender attitudes and beliefs were significantly associated with both biobehavioral reactivity and disease activity. Applying the BBFM while incorporating gender attitudes and beliefs through a feminist lens demonstrates ways by which couple processes affect the mental and physical health of these individuations. Recommendations for future research and clinical implications are discussed.


biobehavioral family model, couple relationships, feminist theory, gender, health, marriage and family therapy


ix, 81 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 66-71).


Copyright 2016 Candice Ann Maier