Personality Predictors of Relationship Satisfaction among Engaged and Married Couples: An Analysis of Actor and Partner Effects

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1 Brigham Young University BYU ScholarsArchive All Theses and Dissertations Personality Predictors of Relationship Satisfaction among Engaged and Married Couples: An Analysis of Actor and Partner Effects Nicole L. Mead Brigham Young University - Provo Follow this and additional works at: Part of the Family, Life Course, and Society Commons BYU ScholarsArchive Citation Mead, Nicole L., "Personality Predictors of Relationship Satisfaction among Engaged and Married Couples: An Analysis of Actor and Partner Effects" (2005). All Theses and Dissertations This Thesis is brought to you for free and open access by BYU ScholarsArchive. It has been accepted for inclusion in All Theses and Dissertations by an authorized administrator of BYU ScholarsArchive. For more information, please contact

2 PERSONALITY PREDICTORS OF RELATIONSHIP SATISFACTION AMONG ENGAGED AND MARRIED COUPLES: AN ANALYSIS OF ACTOR AND PARTNER EFFECTS by Nicole L. Mead A thesis submitted to the faculty of Brigham Young University in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science Marriage, Family and Human Development School of Family Life Brigham Young University August 2005

3 BRIGHAM YOUNG UNIVERSITY GRADUATE COMMITTEE APPROVAL of a thesis submitted by Nicole L. Mead This thesis has been read by each member of the following graduate committee and by majority vote has been found to be satisfactory. Date Thomas B. Holman, Chair Date Thomas Draper Date Joseph A. Olsen

4 BRIGHAM YOUNG UNIVERSITY As chair of the candidate s graduate committee, I have read the master s thesis of Nicole L. Mead in its final form and have found that (1) its format, citations, and bibliographical style are consistent and acceptable and fulfill university and department style requirements; (2) its illustrative materials including figures, tables and charts are in place; and (3) the final manuscript is satisfactory to the graduate committee and is ready for submission to the university library. Date Thomas B. Holman Chair, Graduate Committee Accepted for the Program Thomas Draper Graduate Coordinator Marriage, Family and Human Development Accepted for the School James M. Harper Director, School of Family Life

5 ABSTRACT PERSONALITY PREDICTORS OF RELATIONSHIP SATISFACTION AMONG ENGAGED AND MARRIED COUPLES: AN ANALYSIS OF ACTOR AND PARTNER EFFECTS Nicole L. Mead Marriage, Family and Human Development School of Family Life Master of Science With a sample of 3,436 engaged and married couples, this study explores the prediction of relationship satisfaction using the personality traits of neuroticism, depression, kindness, impulsivity, flexibility, self-esteem, and extraversion while utilizing controls for non-independent couple data in structural equation modeling. Both actor effects (the impact of an individual s personality on his or her own satisfaction) and partner effects (the impact of the partner s personality on satisfaction) are examined, including comparisons of the relative strength of each for males and females. A comparison is also made of engaged and married couples to determine if relationship status acts as a moderator. A separate model is estimated for each personality trait, and all the models show excellent fit statistics. Findings show significant, negative actor and partner effects for neuroticism, depression, and impulsivity, and significant, positive actor and partner effects for kindness, flexibility, and self-esteem among both engaged and

6 married couples. Extraversion has some significant positive effects but is a weaker predictor. Actor effects are generally stronger than partner effects among the engaged couples in the sample, however among married couples the actor and partner effects are more often of equal magnitude. Many paths differ significantly between engaged and married couples, and in each case the paths are stronger among married couples. These findings support the idea that a variety of personality traits are important predictors of satisfaction, and that both actor and partner effects need to be considered. Findings also give evidence that relationship status acts as a moderator, indicating that personality may be a stronger predictor of satisfaction among married couples than engaged couples. With some traits, an engaged individual s own personality may be a more powerful predictor of his or her satisfaction than the partner s personality, while both spouse s traits may be equally predictive of a married individual s satisfaction.

7 TABLE OF CONTENTS Introduction...1 Review of Literature...5 Personality Traits and Relationship Satisfaction...5 Neuroticism...5 Depression...7 Kindness...7 Other Personality Traits...8 The Moderating Effect of Relationship Status...10 Hypotheses...11 Methods...13 Sample...13 Procedure...14 Instrumentation...15 Marital Satisfaction...15 Personality...15 Results...16 Analysis of Model Fit...19 Major Findings...19 Engaged Couples...20 Married Couples...22 The Impact of Relationship Status...24

8 Discussion...24 Limitations...29 Implications for Future Research...31 Conclusion...32 References...34

9 LIST OF FIGURES Figure 1 Theoretical Model...40 Figure 2 Unstandardized and Standardized Path Coefficients: Neuroticism...41 Figure 3 Unstandardized and Standardized Path Coefficients: Depression...42 Figure 4 Unstandardized and Standardized Path Coefficients: Kindness...43 Figure 5 Unstandardized and Standardized Path Coefficients: Impulsivity...44 Figure 6 Unstandardized and Standardized Path Coefficients: Flexibility...45 Figure 7 Unstandardized and Standardized Path Coefficients: Self-Esteem...46 Figure 8 Unstandardized and Standardized Path Coefficients: Extraversion...47

10 LIST OF TABLES Table 1 Sample Characteristics...48 Table 2 Scale Reliability Measures for Study Variables...49 Table 3a Correlations between Relationship Satisfaction and Neuroticism Items...50 Table 3b Correlations between Male and Female Scores on Relationship Satisfaction and Neuroticism Items...51 Table 4a Correlations between Relationship Satisfaction and Depression Items...52 Table 4b Correlations between Male and Female Scores on Relationship Satisfaction and Depression Items...53 Table 5a Correlations between Relationship Satisfaction and Kindness Items...54 Table 5b Correlations between Male and Female Scores on Relationship Satisfaction and Kindness Items...55 Table 6a Correlations between Relationship Satisfaction and Impulsivity Items...56 Table 6b Correlations between Male and Female Scores on Relationship Satisfaction and Impulsivity Items...57 Table 7a Correlations between Relationship Satisfaction and Flexibility Items...58 Table 7b Correlations between Male and Female Scores on Relationship Satisfaction and Flexibility Items...59 Table 8a Correlations between Relationship Satisfaction and Self-Esteem Items...60 Table 8b Correlations between Male and Female Scores on Relationship Satisfaction and Self-Esteem Items...61 Table 9a Correlations between Relationship Satisfaction and Extraversion Items...62

11 Table 9b Correlations between Male and Female Scores on Relationship Satisfaction and Extraversion Items...63 Table 10 Actor and Partner Effects of Personality Dimensions on Relationship Satisfaction: Engaged Couples (Unstandardized coefficients)...64 Table 11 Actor and Partner Effects of Personality Dimensions on Relationship Satisfaction: Married Couples (Unstandardized coefficients)...65 Table 12 Tests of Equal Actor and Partner Effects, Equal Effects of Predictors, and Equal Effects on Outcomes Models: Engaged Couples...66 Table 13 Tests of Equal Actor and Partner Effects, Equal Effects of Predictors, and Equal Effects on Outcomes Models: Married Couples...67 Table 14 Test of Equal Actor and Partner Effects between Engaged and Married Groups...68

12 1 PERSONALITY PREDICTORS OF RELATIONSHIP SATISFACTION AMONG ENGAGED AND MARRIED COUPLES: AN ANALYSIS OF ACTOR AND PARTNER EFFECTS Introduction Marital satisfaction is one of the most researched topics surrounding marriage (Fincham & Linfield, 1997), and for dating or other non-married couples the parallel construct of relationship satisfaction has come to be just as widely studied. Whether called satisfaction, quality, or happiness, the construct is usually conceptualized as an individual s subjective evaluation of the marriage or relationship, and is most often measured as an individual variable (Anderson, Russell, & Schumm, 1983). Poor quality marriages and relationships may detract from an individual s quality of life, and can be a source of significant stress (Burman & Margolin, 1992). Research has found that marital discord, separation and divorce have negative consequences for the mental and physical health of spouses (Bloom, Asher, & White, 1978; Gottman, 1993; Wallerstein, 1986), as well as their children (Fergusson & Horwood, 2001). Therefore, understanding the factors underlying satisfying relationships and marriages is important in understanding how successful relationships can be achieved, which can in turn contribute to the overall well-being of individuals and families. As early researchers began to study differences between happy and unhappy marriages, their work was deeply influenced by personality theory, and generally addressed the question are some personality traits more ideally suited to successful marriage? (Gottman & Notarius, 2002, p. 159). In time, researchers began to expand their interest to include other predictors of relationship satisfaction, and for a time

13 2 personality-focused research fell out of favor as interpersonal processes became the preferred emphasis for many researchers (Gattis, Berns, Simpson, & Christensen, 2004). However, there is a current resurgence of interest in the influence of more stable intrapersonal factors on marital satisfaction, in part because of the difficulty in predicting marital satisfaction from couple conflict alone, and a growing recognition that interpersonal processes may be influenced by underlying personality traits (Gattis et al.; Karney & Bradbury, 1997). The results of early research suggested a connection between personality and relationship satisfaction, although psychologists have struggled with the conceptualization and measurement of personality. Over time the field has come to a general acceptance of a useful conceptualization called the five-factor model of personality (also called the big five), a model that grew out of studies in natural language. Initially, 1,500 trait adjectives were identified in the English language, which were then combined into broader, more basic dimensions until analyses arrived at a replicable fivefactor structure (McCrae, 1991). This structure includes the dimensions of neuroticism (also called emotional instability, negative affectivity, or nervousness), extraversion (sociability and energy), openness (originality and intellectual curiosity), agreeableness (sympathy and cooperation), and conscientiousness (a sense of competence and control). Measurements based on this model of personality have proven to have good reliability and validity, and encompass many of the previously used models of personality in a simple organization (McCrae). Research has shown that these five personality characteristics are useful in assessing the association between personality and marital adjustment, and they are

14 3 commonly used in relationship research. A variety of other traits have also been included in this research, however, and many of them also appear to be useful predictors of relationship satisfaction. In a comprehensive literature review of longitudinal studies on change in the quality and stability of marriage over time, Karney and Bradbury (1995) found that a striking diversity of personality factors have been examined in this body of research (56 traits in all). However, the most consistent finding across all of the studies was that neuroticism is linked to more negative marital outcomes. The authors suggested that further research was needed to make the influence of the other various personality characteristics more clear, and to explain the link between personality and relationship satisfaction more thoroughly. Since the Karney and Bradbury (1995) article, the body of research examining the impact of personality on relationship satisfaction has continued to expand. An assortment of questions have been examined, including: how similarity or dissimilarity in spouses personality impacts satisfaction (Botwin, Buss, & Shackelford, 1997; Gattis et al., 2004; Nemechek & Olsen, 1999; Watson et al., 2004); the role of individual ideals regarding a spouse s personality, and how this affects mate selection and satisfaction (Botwin, et al.); ways in which the relationship between personality and relationship satisfaction differ from distressed/clinical couples to non-distressed couples (Gattis et al.); and how the relationship between personality and relationship satisfaction is mediated by couple interaction processes or other variables (Caughlin, Huston, & Houts, 2000; Holman et al., 2001; Karney & Bradbury, 1997; Miller, Caughlin, & Huston, 2003; Schneewind & Gerhard, 2002). Researchers have also sought to unravel the relative importance of actor effects, or the way an individual s personality influences his or her

15 4 own relationship satisfaction, and partner effects, or the way the spouse s personality influences an individual s relationship satisfaction (Lavee & Adital, 2004; Whisman, Uebelacker, & Weinstock, 2004), a topic that was often overlooked in early research. Despite the wide growth of research in this area, certain challenges remain that have not been addressed in many of these studies. First, most studies fail to distinguish between married and unmarried couples, using a sample of married couples only or using a mixed sample, thereby not allowing for the examination of how the relationship between personality and relationship satisfaction may be moderated by relationship status. Furthermore, to clearly understand the effects of personality it is important to analyze husbands and wives separately, and to use data from both spouses rather than just one (Karney & Bradbury, 1995). Some studies fail to do this, while those that do use data from both spouses face the further challenge of dealing with the non-independent nature of dyadic data because of the correlation between spouses scores, which can bias findings (Kenny, 1996). Researchers are beginning to use innovative techniques to deal with the problem of non-independence with structural equation modeling (Miller et al., 2003; Robins, Caspri, & Moffitt, 2000; Whisman et al., 2004). The current study will employ these statistical techniques to answer the following research questions: R1 What is the impact of a variety of personality characteristics (neuroticism, depression, impulsivity, kindness, flexibility, self-esteem, and extraversion) on relationship satisfaction for males and females, including both actor effects and partner effects, when controlling for the effects of nonindependence?

16 5 R2 Are actor effects and partner effects equally important for predicting the impact of personality traits on males and females relationship satisfaction? R3 What is the moderating role of relationship status (engaged vs. married) on these effects? Review of Empirical Literature The research questions are used to guide the review of literature. Research linking each personality trait of interest to relationship satisfaction is reviewed, including research examining the actor effects and partner effects of personality for men and women. This is followed with research relating to the moderating effects of relationship status. Personality Traits and Relationship Satisfaction Neuroticism In their review of the longitudinal research on marital satisfaction, Karney and Bradbury (1995) report that the most consistent and prominent result within the personality research is that neuroticism (sometimes called emotional instability, negative affectivity, or anxiety) is linked to dissatisfaction in relationships. Indeed, subsequent research continues to replicate this finding (Gattis et al., 2004; Karney & Bradbury, 1997). The literature indicates that there is a strong negative actor effect for neuroticism among both men and women (Lavee & Adital, 2004; Watson et al., 2004), although in one article the actor effect was reported to be stronger among women than men (Bouchard, Lussier, & Sabourin, 1999). Most research also indicates that neuroticism has

17 6 a negative partner effect, meaning men and women whose spouse or partner is high in neuroticism tend to report lower relationship satisfaction (Bouchard et al.; Watson et al.). One contrasting study conducted with a Jewish sample found a partner effect of husbands neuroticism on wives satisfaction, but no partner effect for wives neuroticism on husbands satisfaction (Lavee & Adital, 2004). In another study examining positive/negative temperaments and emotional states, which are linked to neuroticism, it was reported that there were equal actor and partner effects for women, meaning both their own emotions and their husbands emotions were equally predictive of lower satisfaction. For husbands, however, the actor effects were reported to be stronger, meaning their own emotions predict their dissatisfaction more strongly than was the case for their wives (Blum & Mehrabian, 1999). Neuroticism has been linked to several mediating variables, including negative interaction behaviors (Caughlin et al., 2000), and coping strategies used during conflict (Bouchard, 2003), indicating that neuroticism may negatively impact relationships partly through its impact on couple interaction processes. Neuroticism in wives has also been linked to husbands perceived likelihood of the wives having an affair, indicating that neuroticism may also impact marriage through the way spouses perceive each other (Buss & Shackelford, 1997). Researchers suggest that neuroticism may negatively impact marital adjustment not only in the way a spouse views his or her neurotic partner, but also because the general negative affectivity of the neurotic spouse may mean he or she is less likely to view their partners in positive or idealized terms, which also leads to lower adjustment in the relationship (Bouchard et al., 1999).

18 7 Depression Depression is another trait that has been widely examined in conjunction with relationships and found to have a powerful negative effect. Research reports that there is a strong negative actor effect for depression among both men and women (Sacco & Phares, 2001; Whisman et al., 2004), and that there is also a significant negative partner effect for depression (Whisman et al.). Husbands with depressive symptoms have specifically been found to report lower relationship satisfaction in a Jewish sample (Lavee & Adital, 2004). Part of the negative impact of depression on relationship satisfaction may be due to its link with unrealistic perfectionism in women (Dimitrovsky, Levy-Shiff, & Schattner-Zanany, 2002), its impact on conflict resolution and other interaction behaviors (Marchand, 2004; Schmaling & Jacobson, 1990), and with its negative impact on women s attachment security in romantic relationships (Carnelley, Pietromonaco, & Jaffe, 1994). Kindness In contrast to the negative predictive power of neuroticism and depression, kindness has been associated with higher levels of satisfaction in close relationships. A relatively early study (Antill, 1983) found that high femininity in both males and females was predictive of higher relationship satisfaction for both sexes. Miller et al. (2003) explained that typically feminine traits include understanding, trait expressiveness, and kindness, and that these link what was termed femininity with relationship satisfaction for both males and females. Individuals with these traits likely take a communal approach rather than an exchange approach to relationships, and therefore may be less likely to

19 8 monitor the partner s shortcomings, and more likely to be affectionate and responsive (Miller et al.). Agreeableness, one of the big five personality factors, is highly related to kindness and has been found to be strongly associated with relationship satisfaction through both actor effects and partner effects (Botwin et al., 1997; Watson et al., 2004). Women who are high in agreeableness view their husbands as less likely to have an affair than do wives who are low in agreeableness (Buss & Shackelford, 1997), which supports the idea that partners high in agreeableness and kindness have more positive perceptions of each other, which in turn may lead to greater satisfaction for both partners. Other Personality Traits In addition to neuroticism, depression, and kindness, several other personality traits could be used as predictors of relationship satisfaction including impulsivity, flexibility, self-esteem, and extraversion. Impulsivity and flexibility have been less widely studied in the relationship satisfaction literature. The results of one study examining the role of desirability of different traits indicated that having a partner whose temperament tended toward more positive emotional states is associated with greater satisfaction in relationships, while temperaments characterized by negative emotional states are associated with dissatisfaction (Blum & Mahrabian, 1999). The authors suggested that personality traits associated with positive or negative temperaments would be similarly related to satisfaction. Impulsivity is often measured by irritability, becoming easily upset, and similar measures. Given that an impulsive personality is related to a lack of response inhibition, which can translate into becoming easily irritated or angered in interpersonal interactions, it is reasonable that the negativity associated

20 9 with this trait may cause it to have a negative impact on relationship satisfaction for both men and women. To support this, research has indicated that a couple interaction pattern characterized by anger, negativity, and an attack/defend pattern is predictive of divorce within the first ten years of marriage (Gottman & Levenson, 2002). Another study found that wives who did not get along with their husbands and who had chronic trouble becoming sexually aroused are higher in anxiety and impulsivity (Kupfer, Rosenbaum, & Detre, 1977). Flexibility, in contrast to impulsivity, is characteristic of those with more relaxed, easy-going personalities, thus it is reasonable that flexibility may be related to higher relationship satisfaction for males and females. When asked to rank order 40 personality traits in terms of how desirable they are in a romantic partner, flexibility was not very highly ranked by men or women, indicating many couples do not consider this trait to be as central to relationship success as other traits are (Blum & Mahrabian, 1999). However, one theoretical model used by family therapists, the Circumplex Model of Marital and Family Systems, suggests that flexibility is one of the three central dimensions of functional marital and family systems, along with cohesion and communication (Olsen, 1999). This model suggests that couples who have a healthy level of flexibility in their leadership, roles, and relationship rules will be higher functioning than couples with overly rigid or overly chaotic levels of flexibility. Thus, individuals whose personalities are characterized by flexibility may have higher levels of satisfaction than those who are very low in flexibility, and may also be more likely to have satisfied spouses or partners, as long as the flexibility leads to balance in the relationship.

21 10 Another trait that relates closely to positive temperaments and emotional states is self-esteem. One study indicated that having high self-esteem predicted an individual s own relationship satisfaction for both men and women (Sacco & Phares, 2001). Another study found that self-esteem was a positive predictor of one s own marital satisfaction for both males and females, partially mediating the relationship between each individual s past relationship with his or her parents, and his or her current relationship satisfaction (Holman, Larson, & Olsen, 2001). Self-esteem was also found to correlate positively with individuals own levels of global satisfaction, sexual satisfaction, and emotional satisfaction in marriage for both husbands and wives, and to correlate negatively with various complaints about the spouse for both men and women (Shackelford, 2001). This may indicate that, although not tested directly, there may also be positive partner effects for self-esteem. A final trait of interest is extraversion. This is also one of the big five, and has been more widely examined as it relates to relationship satisfaction, however past research indicates that extraversion may not hold as much importance for relationships as do other characteristics (Botwin et al., 1997). Although this trait was found to be associated with the manipulation tactics used during relational interaction (Buss, 1992), extraversion generally yields mixed results or does not contribute to the explanation of the variance in relationship satisfaction (Bouchard et al., 1999; Watson et al., 2004). The Moderating Effect of Relationship Status Some researchers have suggested that the variables predicting relationship satisfaction at one stage in a relationship may differ from those that are important during other stages, as relationships change and evolve (Karney & Bradbury, 1997; Watson,

22 11 Hubbard, & Wiese, 2000). This implies that the relative importance of different traits in predicting relationship satisfaction among couples who are engaged verses those who are married may differ. The majority of the studies examining personality and relationship satisfaction use samples that consist only of married couples, only dating couples, or that mix both married and unmarried couples within the same analysis. This does not allow researchers to examine the moderating effect of relationship status. One study, however, did directly test for differences in the way that personality impacts relationship satisfaction among dating couples and married couples using the five-factor model of personality (Watson et al., 2000). The authors report differences between dating and married couples. Extraversion was more strongly correlated with a person s own satisfaction among married couples than among dating couples, while conscientiousness and agreeableness were more strongly correlated with a person s own satisfaction among dating couples. This study gives evidence that relationship status may be an important moderating variable to take into consideration, however little more is known about its moderating effects for couples because it is so uncommonly examined in the literature. Hypotheses Past research indicates that personality is one important factor to consider in understanding the foundations for relationship satisfaction. A vast array of studies have shown that many traits are good predictors, but there is still some uncertainty as to the specific importance of actor and partner effects for many traits, and little is known about the moderating impact of relationship status. Furthermore, using structural equation modeling more powerful statistical models are now available that are useful in dealing with the dyadic data fundamental to this domain of research. The current study will

23 12 examine the impact of personality on relationship satisfaction while controlling for nonindependence, and will test the following nine hypotheses which are based on the review of literature: H1 Neuroticism will have negative actor effects and partner effects on relationship satisfaction, for both males and females. H2 Depression will have negative actor effects and partner effects on relationship satisfaction, for both males and females. H3 Kindness will have positive actor effects and partner effects on relationship satisfaction, for both males and females. H4 Impulsivity will have negative actor effects and partner effects on relationship satisfaction, for both males and females. H5 Flexibility will have positive actor effects and partner effects on relationship satisfaction, for both males and females. H6 Self-esteem will have positive actor effects and partner effects on relationship satisfaction, for both males and females. H7 Extraversion will not have significant actor effects or partner effects on relationship satisfaction, for either males or females. H8 Actor effects will be stronger than partner effects for each personality trait, for both males and females. H9 Relationship status (whether a couple is engaged or married) will yield a significant moderating effect on the relationship between each personality trait and relationship satisfaction.

24 13 The general model used to test these hypotheses is shown in Figure 1. For this model, the couple is the unit of analysis. Data from each partner will be used to evaluate the relationship between each personality trait and relationship satisfaction, including both actor effects (paths a and d) and partner effects (paths b and c). The model also takes into account the non-independent nature of the dyadic data used, allowing for a correlation between partners scores at the residual level. Methods Sample The sample is divided into a married group and an engaged group, thus descriptive statistics will be reported separately for each. There are 1,803 heterosexual couples in the engaged group, with mean ages of 28 for the men and 26 for the women. Twenty-nine percent of the males and 32% of the females were currently enrolled in college, while 21% of the males and 14% of the females were not enrolled in college and had a high school education or less. Fifty-one percent of the males and 55% of the females had some sort of degree beyond high school. Eighty-seven percent of the males and 88% of the females were Caucasian. The dominant religious affiliation in the sample was the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (a.k.a. LDS, Latter-day Saints, or Mormons), with 34% of the males and 35% of the females selecting LDS as their religious affiliation. The second largest religious group included those selecting Protestant as their religious affiliation, with 26% of the men and 29% of the women. There are 1,633 couples in the married group, with mean ages of 34 for the men and 32 for the women. Seventeen percent of the males and 18% of the females were currently enrolled in college, while 23% of the males and 24% of the females were not

25 14 enrolled in college and had a high school education or less. Sixty percent of the males and 58% of the females had some sort of advanced degree beyond high school. Eightyeight percent of both the males and the females were Caucasian. Forty-seven percent of the males and 48% of the females chose LDS as their religious affiliation, while 24% of the males and 25% of the females are affiliated with a Protestant faith. Table 1 shows the sample characteristics for engaged males, engaged females (n = 1,803), married males, and married females (n = 1,633). Procedure Data were collected using a relationship survey called the RELATionship Evaluation (RELATE). The purpose of the survey is twofold, serving both as an outreach tool to help couples learn about their relationships, and as a tool to gather relationship data. RELATE contains 271 questions designed to measure respondents perceptions about themselves, their partners, and the relationship. Questions focus on four domains shown to be predictive of marital quality, including individual characteristics (personality, styles of interacting, values and beliefs), couple characteristics (couple communication, patterns of relating, and conflict resolution), family background (parent s couple relationship, parent-child relationships, and overall family tone), and social context (social support, race, SES, religion, and cultural beliefs). RELATE was administered as a paper-pencil survey from 1997 to 2000, then beginning in 2001 data were also gathered online at the RELATE website (www.relate-institute.org). RELATE is generally administered as part of a college course on family relationships, in a workshop setting, or in a counseling setting, although some couples take RELATE after simply finding it on the Internet. Each partner in a couple is instructed to complete the

26 15 survey independently, after which the couple receives a detailed printout including information about different aspects of the relationship based on their answers to the survey. (For more information on RELATE, see Busby, Holman, and Taninguchi, 2001). Instrumentation Marital Satisfaction The dependent latent variable used in this study is relationship satisfaction. Five indicator variables were used in which respondents were asked to rate how personally satisfied they felt with various aspects of the relationship, including love, conflict resolution, relationship equality, communication, and the overall relationship. Responses were given on a five point scale, ranging from 1 = very dissatisfied to 5 = very satisfied. The scale has slightly better reliability among married couples than among engaged couples. The alpha was.85 for engaged males and females,.90 for married males, and.92 for married females. Personality The independent latent variables used in this study included seven personality traits. All of the items asked participants to rate how well they felt different adjectives or short phrases described themselves, using a 5-point scale: 1 = never, 2 = rarely, 3 = sometimes, 4 = often, and 5 = very often. Items from each scale did not appear next to each other in the questionnaire, but were ordered randomly. Neuroticism was measured using the four adjectives worrier, fearful, tense, and nervous. Depression used three items, including sad and blue, feel hopeless, and depressed. Kindness included the four items considerate, loving, kind, and friendly. The impulsivity scale used two items, including fight with others/lose temper, and easily irritated or

27 16 mad. Flexibility was measured using the four items open minded, flexible, easy going, and adaptable. The self-esteem scale used four items, including I take a positive attitude toward myself, I think I am no good at all (reverse coded), I feel I am a person of worth, and I am inclined to think I am a failure (reverse coded). Finally, extraversion was measured using the four items talkative, quiet (reverse coded), shy (reverse coded), and outgoing. Reliability measures are adequate for all of the scales, with alpha scores ranging from.70 to.86. Reliability measures for these scales can be found in Table 2. Results The analyses of this study were conducted using Analysis of Moment Structures (AMOS, v. 4.01; Arbuckle & Wothke, 1999), a structural equation modeling (SEM) program. A separate model was run for each personality trait as shown in Figure 1, and each model had two groups (engaged and married). In order to control for the biasing effects of non-independence inherent to the dyadic data used in this study, corresponding error terms for male and female items in each path model were allowed to correlate (Kenny, 1996; Miller et al., 2003). Using SEM offers the advantage of testing actor effects, or the impact of an individual s personality on his or her own relationship satisfaction, and while controlling for the expected correlation between partners scores, simultaneously testing partner effects, or the way each partner s personality crosses over to influence the other s satisfaction. Such an approach is a dramatic improvement over past analytic methods that could not examine the influence of both partner s personality on both partner s relationship satisfaction with such stringent controls. Additionally, SEM makes the process of comparing alternative nested models simple, which

28 17 streamlines the process of comparing the engaged and married groups and testing for equal actor and partner effects. The drawback of using these particular SEM models, however, is that each personality characteristic is analyzed in a separate model which does not allow a test of how each trait contributes to relationship satisfaction while controlling for the other traits. To test if actor effects and partner effects are equivalent in strength for males and females, additional nested models are created with corresponding paths constrained to have a single value (path a with path d, then path b with path c). When probability values for the difference in the χ 2 test are less than.05, this indicates that the constrained model and the unconstrained model differ significantly from one another, and we cannot treat the paths as equal. To test whether actor or partner effects are stronger, two kinds of models are used. First, the equal effects of predictor models will constrain path a with path b to test for equal effects of female predictors, and path c with path d to test for equal effects of male predictors. This simply tests if females traits have an equal impact on female and male satisfaction, and males traits have an equal impact on female and male satisfaction. Next, the equal effects on outcomes models will constrain path a with path c to test for equal effects on female outcomes, and path b with path d to test for equal effects on male outcomes. This tests whether the male and the female traits are equally predictive of male satisfaction, and if male and the female traits are equally predictive of female satisfaction. Using both tests allows a more fine-grained comparison of the relative importance of actor and partner effects for both males and females. Finally, to test for moderation of relationship status, corresponding paths are constrained across the engaged and married groups (i.e. path a will be constrained across groups, path

29 18 b will be constrained across groups, etc.), and we compare the χ 2 value of the constrained model with that for the baseline model to determine if the paths can be considered to be equal across groups. Means, standard deviations, and correlations among relationship satisfaction variables and personality variables can be found in Table 3 (neuroticism), Table 4 (depression), Table 5 (kindness), Table 6 (impulsivity), Table 7 (flexibility), Table 8 (self-esteem), and Table 9 (extraversion). Part a of each table shows within-person correlations between personality items and satisfaction items for the engaged and married groups, while part b of each table shows between-person correlations for the engaged and married groups (i.e. the correlation between the male and the female s scores on the items). Within three scales used in the models, certain individual items were highly correlated, and confirmatory factor analysis indicated that there was cross-loading between these items, thus they were allowed to correlate in order to improve model fit. Within the relationship satisfaction scale, the item love was allowed to correlate with the item overall relationship. That these items are highly correlated means that respondents are viewing them very similarly. Also within the relationship scale, the item how conflicts are resolved was allowed to correlate with the item quality of communication, which is reasonable considering both are communication related items. Two very similar items in the self-esteem scale were allowed to correlate, the item I think I am no good at all, and I am inclined to think I am a failure. Within the extraversion scale, talkative was allowed to correlate with its negative form, shy.

30 19 Analysis of Model Fit In order to evaluate model fit, several fit measures are presented. The χ 2 statistic and two incremental fit indexes will be presented, in line with Hoyle and Panter s (1995) recommendation to report both absolute fit indexes and incremental fit indexes. The incremental indexes used are the Tucker and Lewis (1973) index (TLI, or alternately the NNFI), and the comparative fit index (CFI), both of which provide values ranging from zero to 1, with values close to.95 indicative of good model fit (Hu & Bentler, 1999). Additionally, the root mean square error of approximation (RMSEA) is presented along with 90% confidence intervals (Steiger, 1990). Values below.05 indicate good model fit (McDonald & Ho, 2002). Based on these criteria, all of the models showed excellent fit statistics (neuroticism: χ 2 = 857.9, d. f. = 240, p <.001, TLI =.972, CFI =.978, RMSEA =.027, 90% interval lo =.025, high =.029; depression: χ 2 = 566.4, d. f. = 180, p <.001, TLI =.983, CFI =.987, RMSEA =.025, 90% interval lo =.023, high =.027; kindness: χ 2 = , d. f. = 240, p <.001, TLI =.963, CFI =.971, RMSEA =.031, 90% interval lo =.029, high =.033; impulsivity: χ 2 = 610.1, d. f. = 124, p <.001, TLI =.972, CFI =.981, RMSEA =.034, 90% interval lo =.031, high =.036; flexibility: χ 2 = 653.4, d. f. = 238, p <.001, TLI =.980, CFI =.985, RMSEA =.023, 90% interval lo =.020, high =.025; selfesteem: χ 2 = 766.5, d. f. = 236, p <.001, TLI =.979, CFI =.984, RMSEA =.026, 90% interval lo =.024, high =.028; extraversion: χ 2 = 683.1, d. f. = 236, p <.001, TLI =.981, CFI =.985, RMSEA =.023, 90% interval lo =.021, high =.026). Major Findings Unstandardized path coefficients for all seven models are presented in Table 10 (engaged couples) and Table 11 (married couples). Additionally, Figures 2 through 8

31 20 present graphical representations of the models with unstandardized and standardized path coefficients, as well as R-squared measures of the satisfaction variables for each of the personality traits respectively which reflect the zero-order relationship of the predictors with the outcome. Results for engaged couples are presented first, followed by results for married couples, and a discussion on the moderation analyses. Engaged Couples In line with hypothesis one through hypothesis six, there were significant, negative actor and partner effects for the traits of neuroticism, depression, and impulsivity, and significant, positive actor and partner effects for the traits of kindness, flexibility, and self-esteem for both males and females. Contrary to hypothesis seven, there were significant, positive actor effects for the trait of extraversion for both males and females, and a significant, positive partner effect from males extraversion to females relationship satisfaction. However, even the significant path coefficients for extraversion were very small (the largest significant path had an unstandardized coefficient of.096). Extraversion accounted for a very small proportion of the variance in relationship satisfaction, (R 2 =.01 for females,.02 for males). The greatest proportion of the variance was accounted for by impulsivity and depression, with R-squared values ranging from.12 to.19. Analyses revealed that the magnitude of actor effects and the magnitude of partner effects did not differ between males and females (i.e. path a and path d did not differ significantly in any of the models, and path b and path c did not differ significantly in any of the models; see the test for equal actor and partner effects in Table 12).

32 21 In order to test the relative importance of actor and partner effects, two tests were used (see Table 12). The test for equal effects of predictors tested whether the females personality had an equal impact on their own relationship satisfaction and their partners relationship satisfaction, and whether the males personality had an equal impact on their own relationship satisfaction and their partners relationship satisfaction for each trait (i.e. if path a is equal to path b, and if path c is equal to path d). The test of equal effects on outcomes examined if the females and the males personality affected female satisfaction equally, and if the females and the males personality affected male satisfaction equally (i.e. if path a is equal to path c, and if path b is equal to path d). Finding that there are inequalities in these tests indicate that the actor and partner effects are not of equal magnitude. In support of hypothesis 8, for the traits of neuroticism, depression, kindness, and self-esteem, there were significant differences found for both males and females in all tests. In each instance, the result indicated that the actor effect was statistically stronger than the partner effect for males and females, both when testing equal effects of predictors, and when testing equal effects on outcomes. For the traits impulsivity and extraversion, however, there was no difference found in the test of equal effects of female predictors or equal effects on female outcomes. Examination of the path coefficients revealed that the male actor effect in these models was significantly stronger than each of the other three paths, while the other paths did not differ significantly. This indicates that for males, their own impulsivity and extraversion have a greater impact on their relationship satisfaction than their partners, while for females their own and their partners traits are equally important (although it is noteworthy that extraversion has relatively weak predictive power, thus a comparison of the paths in the

33 22 extraversion model may be largely unimportant among engaged couples). For the trait of flexibility, there was no difference found for the test of equal effects of female predictors. This indicates that females flexibility is equally important to their own and their partners satisfaction. In terms of the other tests for flexibility, the male actor effect was significantly stronger than either partner effect. Married Couples Again, in line with hypothesis one through hypothesis six, there were significant, negative actor and partner effects for the traits of neuroticism, depression, and impulsivity, and significant, positive actor and partner effects for the traits of kindness, flexibility, and self-esteem for both males and females. Depression explained the greatest proportion of the variance with an R-squared of.22 for both males and females. Next in importance were impulsivity and self-esteem, with R-squared values ranging from.12 to.17. Extraversion continued to explain almost none of the variance. For the trait of extraversion, males extraversion had a significant, positive relationship with both male and female relationship satisfaction, but neither the actor nor partner effects of female extraversion were significant. Analyses revealed that the magnitude of actor effects and the magnitude of partner effects did not differ between males and females for most of the models (i.e. path a and path d did not differ significantly, and path b and path c did not differ significantly; see the test for equal actor and partner effects in Table 13). There were two exceptions, however. There was a significantly stronger actor effect for female depression than male depression, and a significantly stronger actor effect for male extraversion than female extraversion.

34 23 In contrast to the results for engaged couples, however, there were fewer differences in the relative importance of actor and partner effects among married couples (see Table 13). For the traits of impulsivity, kindness, and flexibility, there were no significant differences in either the tests for equal effects of predictors, or tests for equal effects of outcomes. This indicates that for these traits, actor and partner effects are of similar importance for both males and females. For the trait of depression, the female actor effect was of a larger magnitude than any of the other paths in the model, while none of the other paths significantly differed from one another. Thus for females, actor effects of depression are more important to relationship satisfaction than the partner effect, but for males the actor and partner effects are equally important. For the trait of neuroticism, the path from female neuroticism to male relationship satisfaction was significantly lower than any of the other paths in the model, while none of the other paths significantly differed from one another. This indicates that for male relationship satisfaction, the actor affect of neuroticism is more important than the partner effect, but for female relationship satisfaction both actor and partner effects are of equal importance. For self-esteem, all of the tests indicated there was a significant difference except for the test for equal effects on female outcomes. The male actor effect was higher than the other paths, and the partner effect from female self-esteem to male relationship satisfaction was lower than the other paths. This indicates that for male relationship satisfaction, the actor effect of self-esteem is more important than the partner effect, but for female relationship satisfaction, the actor effect and the partner effect are of equal importance. Finally, for extraversion, the only test indicating a significant difference between paths was the test for equal effects on male outcomes. In this case, the actor

35 24 effect of extraversion was stronger for males than the partner effect, but for females neither actor nor partner effects were more important. The Impact of Relationship Status Moderation occurs when a variable changes any of the causal relationships in a model (Kenny, 2004). In line with the several differences already reported in the above results for engaged and married couples, there were many significant differences found in the paths across groups, indicating that relationship status does indeed provide a moderating effect on the association between personality and relationship satisfaction. Table 14 shows tests of equivalence for each individual path in each model. All four paths (a, b, c, and d) differed significantly between engaged and married couples for the traits of depression and self-esteem, but for neuroticism only the actor effect of male neuroticism (path d) and the partner effect of male neuroticism on female satisfaction (path c) differed significantly between groups. Three of the paths differed for kindness (b, c, and d), while the female actor effect (path a) did not differ between groups. For impulsivity three paths differed (a, b and c), but the path for male actor effects (path d) did not differ between groups. For flexibility, the only path that did differ from engaged to married couples was the partner effect of male flexibility on female relationship satisfaction (path c), and for extraversion none of the paths differed significantly between groups. It is notable that in every instance where a path was different between the engaged group and the married group, the coefficient was higher for the married couples. Discussion The present study examined the impact of seven personality characteristics on relationship satisfaction for males and females, including both actor and partner effects,

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