The long term objective of the proposed research is to understand better the role of affect/emotion in social behavior. Many affective disorders such as depression are thought to result from or be supported by one's social circumstances. A better understanding of normal affective responses to various social circumstances could facilitate the understanding and treatment of pathological responses. In particular, marital relationships appear particularly consequential with regard to affective disorder. The self-evaluation maintenance model (SEM) has demonstrated considerable power in accounting for affect and behavior in situations involving stranger and friendships dyads. The previous series of studies supported by NIMH has investigated the integral role of affect in mediating behavioral responses to SEM situations. Although one of the variables in the SEM model is that of psychological closeness, little has been done to elaborate the SEM model in a manner conducive to the investigation of long term, intimate relationships such as marriage. In long term relationships one is more likely to see communal relationships and self's concern with consequences to other. Therefore, a theoretical expansion of the SEM model along with a series of five studies is proposed. This proposal builds upon previous work examining the role of affect in SEM processes. The series of studies is designed to show that couples respond to SEM processes in ways which can be either more or less functional for the couple. The direct impact of SEM configurations on marital processes widely recognized to be consequential for relationship stability and satisfaction are investigated. In addition, factors that make approaches to SEM situations more or less functional are investigated. The role of SEM processes in relationship development and maintenance is also examined. Given the importance of intimate relationships as a context for the genesis and expression of emotion, an expansion of the SEM model to processes occurring within the context of marriage seems appropriate and timely.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
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Mental Health Behavioral Sciences Research Review Committee (BSR)
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University of Georgia
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United States
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