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Psychologisches Institut Klinische Psychologie Kinder/Jugendliche & Paare/Familien

Scientific collaboration


"Impact of stress on relationship development of couples and children: A longitudinal approach on dyadic development across the lifespan"

This project examines the impact of stress on romantic relationships and their development over time in a prospective longitudinal study design including three age cohorts (Partnerschaft und Stress: Entwicklung im Zeitverlauf; PASEZ). Furthermore, the impact of close relationships on the well-being of children is investigated. The project builds upon existing efforts to understand how couples and families change over time by emphasizing the role of (a) different facets of stress (extradyadic versus intradyadic stress, macro versus micro-stress, acute versus chronic stress), (b) coping (individual and dyadic coping), as well as (c) motivational processes (implicit and explicit motives, goals, commitment, etc.). The data of past waves of this ongoing longitudinal research project may be used for collaborative research purposes. Interested scientist from different fields can approach us ( for further and more detailed information.
A total of 368 German speaking, heterosexual couples and 43 children are followed over ten years in total by means of self-report and observational data in three age cohorts (young, middle-aged, and elderly). The couples had to be in a relationship with each other for at least one year. At wave 1, the first cohort consisted of 122 couples aged 20 – 35 years, the second cohort consisted of 125 couples aged 40 – 55 years, and the third cohort consisted of 121 couples aged 65 – 80 years. From the initial sample of 368 couples at time 1, 302 couples participated at time 2, 255 couples at time 3, 228 couples at time 4, 227 couples at time 5, and 215 couples at time 6. Reasons for dropout were separation/divorce (44 couples), widowhood (10 couples), or because they did not want to or were not able to participate anymore (102 couples). In the first wave 43 children of participating dyads provided questionnaire data, 70 children participated in the second wave, and 40 in the third. Furthermore, 26 new couples were added during the study, as former dropouts continued with a new partner.
To date, eight annual measurement waves have been conducted. Data for the ninth wave is currently being collected (until August 2020). In waves 1 through 5, the couples were invited to come to the Department of Psychology at the University of Zurich, where they filled in questionnaires and were videotaped during two dyadic interaction tasks and a conflict discussion. In the dyadic interaction setting the couples were videotaped in a standardized setting of eight minutes duration for each partner in the role of the speaker. The speaker was instructed to tell his/her partner (listener) about a relevant stress episode that recently had happened outside the relationship. After eight minutes the roles of speaker and listener were reversed. This paradigm allows the examination of stress communication of partner A and dyadic coping of partner B and vice versa in an economical, reliable and valid way. Furthermore, there was a standard conflict discussion. The couple was invited to discuss a relevant topic often causing hot conflicts in the relationship. Additionally, they completed questionnaires at home. Waves 6 through 9 included online questionnaires only.
One key strength of this project is the study design: The study of three age groups combines a prospective longitudinal study design with a cohort study design. Thus, we are able to untangle the role of age and cohort-based societal and historical predictors.

The data includes predictors on the individual level, the dyadic level, as well as the child level. An overview of the used measures is given below. Based on the video recordings dyadic interaction behavior was coded, which is also described below. Please note, that some measurements were not conducted every year.

Individual level: Neuroticism Scale of NEO-PI-R, Picture Story Exercise (PSE), Personality Research Form (PRF), Questionnaire for Assessing Life Goals (GOALS), Motive Specific Emotions (mEMO), Approach vs. Avoidance Goal Orientation (AARRG & ASSxG), Action vs. State Orientation (HAKEMP), Individual Coping (Incope-2), General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-12), Subjective Psychological and Physical Health (SF-12), Perception of one’s own Emotions (WEG), Perception of others’ Emotions (WFG), Health Survey Short Form (SF-12), Multidimensional Mood State Questionnaire (MDBF), General Life Satisfaction (adapted from SWLS), Physical Complaints (KB), Sexual Unfaithfulness (SU), Contraception

Dyadic level: Multidimensional Stress Questionnaire for Couples (MDSF-P), Couples Satisfaction Index (CSI), Relationship Assessment Scale (RAS), Marital Satisfaction Inventory-Revised (MSI-R), Dyadic Coping Inventory (DCI), Basic Psychological Need Satisfaction in Relationships (BNS), Self-regulation for Effective Relationships (SREG), Approach, Avoidance and Global Commitment (CIL),  Commitment (Rusbult/Alternatives Scale),  Attachment Styles (BS_SK), Marital Communication Questionnaire (MCQ), Communication Questionnaire (KF-k), Relationship Questionnaire (RQ), Sexual Activity Scale (SAS), Sexual Dysfunction Scale (SDS), Marital Forgiveness Scale (MFS), Graphical Drawing of the Course of the Relationship, Self-regulation for effective relationships (SREG), Sexual, Emotional and Cognitive Commitment (COM SEC)

Child level: Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ, parent evaluation), Questionnaire for the Assessment of Health-related Quality of Life in Children and Youngsters (KINDL-R, self-evaluation)

Observational Measures: Transcriptions of the conflict and dyadic interactions (currently available of waves 1 - 3), positive and negative behaviors and affects were coded by means of the Specific Affect Coding System (SPAFF), dyadic coping interaction of the couples are coded by the System zur Erfassung des dyadischen Copings (SEDC), Synchrony of the movements of head, torso and whole body by use of the software Motion Energy Analyses (MEA), behavioral correlates of implicit affiliation and power motives were coded by the coding system for concessions and compromise to the realm of relationships, and the coding system for verbal, nonverbal, and para-linguistic indicators of dominant persuasion was applied.

Video recordings: All interactions and conflicts were videotaped, and the spoken German or Swiss German was transcribed to Standard German.

PASEZ Publications


Close to submission
Bettschart, M., Wolf, B. M., Herrmann, M., & Brandstätter, V. (2019). Age-related development of self-regulation: Evidence on stability and change in action orientation. Manuscript in preparation.

Bernecker, K.*, Ghassemi, M.*, & Brandstätter, V. (2019). Approach and avoidance relationship goals and couples’ nonverbal communication during conflict. European Journal of Social Psychology, 49(3), 622–636. (* shared first authorship)

Denzinger, F., Backes, S., & Brandstätter, V. (2018). Same same but different: Similarity of goals and implicit motives in intimate relationships. Motivation Science, 4(1), 60-77.
Denzinger, F., & Brandstätter, V. (2018). Stability of and changes in implicit motives. A narrative review of empirical studies. Frontiers in Psychology, 9, 777.
Kuhn, R., Bradbury, T. N., Nussbeck, F. W., & Bodenmann, G. (2018). The power of listening: Lending an ear to the partner during dyadic coping conversations. Journal of Family Psychology, 32(6), 762-772.
Leuchtmann, L., Milek, A., Bernecker, K., Nussbeck, F., Backes, S., Martin, M., … Bodenmann, G. (2018). Temporal trajectories of couples’ negative communication in conflict discussions: A longitudinal analysis. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships.
Leuchtmann, L., Zemp, M., Milek, A., Nussbeck, F. W., Brandstätter, V., & Bodenmann, G. (2018). Role of clarity of other’s feelings for dyadic coping. Personal Relationships, 25(1), 38–49.

Backes, S., Brandstätter, V., Kuster, M., Nussbeck, F. W., Bradbury, T. N., Bodenmann, G., & Sutter-Stickel, D. (2017). Who suffers from stress? Action-state orientation moderates the effect of external stress on relationship satisfaction. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 34(6), 894–914.
Kuster, M., Backes, S., Brandstätter, V., Nussbeck, F. W., Bradbury, T. N., Sutter-Stickel, D., & Bodenmann, G. (2017). Approach-avoidance goals and relationship problems, communication of stress, and dyadic coping in couples. Motivation and Emotion, 41(5), 576–590.
Zemp, M., Backes, S., & Brandstätter, V. (2017). The power motive and parenting style—Is incongruence related to inconsistency? Motivation Science, 3(4), 383-392.
Zemp, M., Nussbeck, F. W., Cummings, E. M., & Bodenmann, G. (2017). The spillover of child-related stress into parents’ relationship mediated by couple communication. Family Relations, 66(2), 317–330.

Denzinger, F., Backes, S., Job, V., & Brandstätter, V. (2016). Age and gender differences in implicit motives. Journal of Research in Personality, 65, 52–61.
Neysari, M., Bodenmann, G., Mehl, M. R., Bernecker, K., Nussbeck, F. W., Backes, S., … Horn, A. B. (2016). Monitoring pronouns in conflicts. GeroPsych, 29, 201-213.
Rusu, P. P., Hilpert, P., Turliuc, M. N., & Bodenmann, G. (2016). Dyadic coping in an Eastern European context: Validity and measurement invariance of the Romanian version of Dyadic Coping Inventory. Measurement and Evaluation in Counseling and Development, 49(4), 274–285.
Zemp, M., Bodenmann, G., Backes, S., Sutter-Stickel, D., & Bradbury, T. N. (2016). Positivity and negativity in interparental conflict. Swiss Journal of Psychology, 75, 167-173.
Zemp, M., Bodenmann, G., Backes, S., Sutter-Stickel, D., & Revenson, T. A. (2016). The importance of parents’ dyadic coping for children. Family Relations, 65(2), 275–286.

Kuster, M., Bernecker, K., Backes, S., Brandstätter, V., Nussbeck, F. W., Bradbury, T. N., … Bodenmann, G. (2015). Avoidance orientation and the escalation of negative communication in intimate relationships. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 109(2), 262-275.

Landis, M., Bodenmann, G., Bradbury, T. N., Brandstätter, V., Peter-Wight, M., Backes, S., … Nussbeck, F. W. (2014). Commitment and dyadic coping in long-term relationships. GeroPsych, 27, 139-149.