Document Type


Date of Degree

Summer 2012

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In


First Advisor

Lawrence, Erika

First Committee Member

Lawrence, Erika

Second Committee Member

O'Hara, Michael

Third Committee Member

Watson, David

Fourth Committee Member

Duck, Steven

Fifth Committee Member

Munoz, Kristine


The primary goal of the present research was to clarify the role of marriage in the developmental course of internalizing symptoms (i.e., depression and anxiety). Aims were pursued in a community sample of 103 couples assessed five times over the first seven years of marriage, and results are presented in two separate parts.

Although marital discord has been linked to both depression and anxiety, our understanding of how marriage contributes to the development of internalizing symptoms is limited in scope and lacking specificity. First, it is unclear whether the marital relationship contributes to the broad dimension of internalizing symptoms as opposed to specific diagnoses. Second, it is unclear how the marital relationship contributes to internalizing symptoms: through global marital dissatisfaction or through specific relationship processes (and which processes). The purpose of the research presented in Part 1 was to address these two issues. Further, marital discord is rarely incorporated into broader etiological frameworks of psychopathology (e.g., a diathesis-stress framework). The purpose of research presented in Part 2 was to develop and test a novel conceptual framework clarifying how specific marital processes (i.e., conflict management, partner support, emotional intimacy, and power and control), neuroticism, and stress work together to impact the development of internalizing symptoms over time.

Results suggest that neuroticism contributes to the development of internalizing symptoms primarily through non-marital stress and an imbalance of power and control in one's marriage for husbands and through greater emotional disengagement for wives. Whereas stress originating outside of the marriage was more critical to the mental health of men, the marital relationship played a more central role for women. Marital processes remain significant predictors of internalizing symptoms when controlling for other well-established risk factors, demonstrating the need to routinely consider marital factors in etiological models of individual psychopathology. Further, results allow for the identification of specific clinical targets that can be prioritized in interventions aimed at preventing internalizing disorders. Specific recommendations for adapting marital preparation programs to prevent individual psychopathology are discussed.


Anxiety, Couples, Depression, Internalizing, Marriage


vi, 106 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 95-106).


Copyright 2012 Rebecca Leigh Brock

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Psychology Commons