Couples’ communication under stress : do general skills matter?
Although couples’ communication plays a central role in shaping relationship quality during times of stress, whether communication buffers the harmful effects of stress or deteriorates under conditions of stress remains unclear. Drawing from a longitudinal study of 171 newlywed couples, the current study reconciled these perspectives by testing the potential dual role of communication. Specifically, we hypothesized that, on average, individuals would exhibit worse observed communication when facing greater stress. However, this effect might be stronger among couples who generally communicate poorly. Results partially confirmed predictions for wives only in their support discussions. If the couple generally exhibited worse support communication, then at times when wives were experiencing greater stress, they engaged in more oppositional support behaviors. If replicated, the findings of this study may highlight the dual role communication plays as well as the importance of support communication skills training.