Dyadic Research in Couple Therapy: The Link between Attachment and Relationship Satisfaction

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Greaves, Bryson
Intimate Partner Relationships; Relational Conflict; Emotion Regulation; Conflict Resolution;; Counseling; Counseling Psychology; Marriage and Family Therapy and Counseling; Social and Behavioral Sciences; Couples Therapy; Marital Therapy; Object Attachment
thesis / dissertation description
Couple therapy ranks among the most frequently and diligently researched topics in Marital and Family therapy (MFT). Additionally, intimate partner relationships are a key focal point for clinical intervention with increasingly more couples seeking therapy to address relational conflict, repair emotional injury, and increase intimacy (Lebow, Chambers, Christensen, & Johnson 2012). Rigorous empirical inquiry has suggested that attachment theory is a crucial foundation to understanding relationship distress and increasing relationship satisfaction (Wiebe & Johnson, 2016). Secure attachment between intimate partners can lead to an increase in trust (Pistole, 1993), healthy emotion regulation (Kobak & Hazan, 1991), and positive conflict resolution strategies (Feeny, 1998), resulting in higher overall relationship satisfaction, quality, and stability (Kirkpatrick & Davis, 1994; Simpson, 1990). However, research on attachment as a foundational pillar to relationship satisfaction has been largely correlational and conceptual. Therefore, there is a need to understand the causal link between attachment and relationship satisfaction. Aim one of this dissertation will address this gap in the literature by using a sophisticated Actor-Partner Interdependence Model (APIM; Kenny, Kashy, & Cook, 2006) cross-lagged design to determine the causal link between attachment and relationship satisfaction using data from linked dyads in the Marine Corps. This study uses a longitudinal design with data collection taking place at four time points. Aim two uses Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT; Johnson, 2004) as a case example to highlight the need for dyadic research in MFT to strengthen the body of research for evidence-based practice and to address the gap between research evidence and clinician application.