Behavioral reciprocity in marriage: a study of within-day similarity in affection and negativity
The current study uses behavioral data gathered from marital partners across a sample of days to estimate the extent of each couple’s reciprocity in both affectionate and negative behavior, as measured via an index of within-day similarity. Analyses explore the extent of within-day similarity in both positive and negative behavior for a sample of married couples, describe the degree to which within-day similarity changes over the first two years of marriage, and investigate how those patterns relate to both concurrent and long-term marital satisfaction and stability. Results indicate that within-day similarity in neither affection nor negativity is a strong predictor of concurrent satisfaction or long-term marital quality or stability. Furthermore, neither class of within-day similarity systematically increases or decreases over the first two years of marriage (neither across the entire sample of couples nor within specific long-term marital outcome groups). Some marginal effects for within-day similarity on marital satisfaction, however, indicate that: (1) affectionate within-day similarity tends to have little or no positive relationship with marital satisfaction across the first several years of marriage, but gains an inverse relationship with marital satisfaction after thirteen years of marriage; and (2) within-day similarity in negativity has a direct but weak relationship with marital satisfaction for wives who have been married for two years. The results are discussed in terms of the importance of assessing marital reciprocity using a variety of temporal frames.