Doctoral thesis

Relationship Processes in Understudied Samples : Implications for Relationship Functioning and Sexuality in Romantic Relationships


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Thèse de doctorat: Université de Fribourg, 2020

English Relationship functioning can be investigated from different angles; next to investigating dyadic outcomes between couples we can also zoom into processes within subjects. Adopting a cultural lens adds another layer, as the cultural context influences norms around intimate relationships, and can be inspected using the framework of Bronfenbrenner´s (1977) ecological systems theory. In more collectivistic societies, for instance, the extended family is much more involved in decisions regarding the couple relationship, accompanied by more obligations and duties towards family members, and maintaining harmony within the community is much more important than the relationship satisfaction between spouses. It is therefore highly relevant to replicate existing evidence and extend these results beyond Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich and Democratic (WEIRD) samples. This thesis aims at investigating predictors, correlates and processes in a non- Western sample and in intercultural couples, drawing on several relevant theories, in two empirical studies and a quantitative review. The empirical studies are based on a sample of 180 Iranian couples of which both partners provided weekly reports on their relational experiences during the past seven days, over the course of six consecutive weeks. In study 1, we tested a concurrent mediation model and demonstrated that drops in sexual satisfaction can explain variance of within-subject associations of conflict frequency with relationship satisfaction. In study 2, we found that both the absence or occurrence of sex, as well as cumulative sex frequency, predicted intimacy and relationship satisfaction in later weeks. The lagged model showed that sexual intercourse predicted prospective residualized change in womens´ perception of emotional intimacy one week later, which in turn predicted prospective residualized change in the partners´ relationship satisfaction two weeks later. These two studies provide further evidence for the tight interconnection of distressed interactions and sexual life in non-Western intimate relationships. The data also suggest these associations found in Western couples extend to non- Western couples in predominantly Muslim societies. Moving away from a single culture, in study 3 we considered couples with different socio-cultural backgrounds. Previous research found that couples with different socio- cultural backgrounds are less stable and less satisfied in their relationships than culturally homogeneous couples, due to additional stressors these couples face. We computed effect sizes comparing couples with different socio-cultural backgrounds and culturally homogeneous couples based on the studies included in this review. Our results suggest that controlling for socio-demographic variables that are specific to socio-culturally different couples decreases the gap in relationship functioning between the two groups. Besides the confirmation of several exchange theory components, we complement the underlying theory with our results in non-Western samples. Additionally, within-subject analysis showed considerable within- person variation implying complex relationship processes. All three studies underline that associations between indicators of relationship functioning in non-Western couples are similar to Western relationships. This supports the assumption that many intimacy-related aspects represent basic human needs. This dissertation further provides a comprehensive view on several indicators of relationship functioning by shedding light on predictors, processes and relationship outcomes within- and between-subjects.
Faculté des lettres et des sciences humaines
  • English
  • Ressource en ligne consultée le 02.07.2020
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