Understanding marital conflict 7 years later from prenatal representations of marriage

Melissa Curran, Brian Ogolsky, Nancy Hazen, Leslie Bosch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We examine how representations of marriage, assessed prenatally, predict different types of marital conflict (cooperation, avoidance/capitulation, stonewalling, and child involvement in parental conflict) at 7 years postpartum (N=132 individuals). We assessed representations of marriage prenatally by interviewing spouses about their own parents' marriage, and then rated the content and insightfulness of their memories. Results show that marital representations characterized by higher insight predict higher cooperation and lower child involvement in parental conflict, whereas content of marital representations was not a significant predictor of marital conflict. Further, individuals who remember negative memories from their parents' marriage with high insight were lowest on child involvement in parental conflict, whereas those who remember negative memories with low insight were highest on child involvement in parental conflict. Finally, women who remember negative content with high insight report the highest cooperation, whereas women who remember negative content with low insight report the lowest cooperation. For men, however, marital representations were less effective in predicting later cooperation. We conclude that marital representations, even when assessed prenatally, influence certain types of marital conflict 7 years later. Using such findings, therapists could help spouses gain insight into how the memories of their parents' marriage relate to the use of specific conflict strategies in their marriage. 2011

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)221-234
Number of pages14
JournalFamily Process
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2011


  • Early Family Relationships
  • Marital Conflict
  • Marriage
  • Representations of Marriage

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)

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