Actor-Partner Effects and the Differential Roles of Depression and Anxiety in Intimate Relationships: A Cross-Sectional and Longitudinal Analysis.
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Past studies examining the role of psychopathology in intimate relationships have largely focused on the construct of depression, both as a cause and consequence of relationship distress. In contrast, far less attention has been given to anxiety, despite the fact that anxiety is related to several factors influencing relationship functioning, including problem solving skills, thoughts of threat and uncertainty, sexual dysfunction, excessive self-focus and alcohol abuse. Moreover, the high rates of comorbidity between anxiety and depression make it unclear whether the findings from past studies examining the interpersonal toll of depression are specific to depression or are nonspecific markers of any type of psychopathology. Thus, the purpose of the present study was to investigate the differential roles of depression and anxiety in intimate relationship satisfaction, both cross-sectionally and longitudinally. Further, using the actor-partner interdependence model (APIM), we examined both the effects of one’s own anxiety and depression and also of one’s partner’s anxiety and depression on one’s own relationship satisfaction. Our cross-sectional sample consisted of 70 couples, of which 48 couples also participated at follow-up. All couples completed measures of relationship satisfaction and symptoms of depression and anxiety. Cross-sectionally, results revealed that a person’s own symptoms of depression were the only predictors of relationship satisfaction. Conversely, depressive symptoms did not predict change in relationship satisfaction over time. Instead, a person’s own levels of anxiety at time 1 were a stronger predictor of this change. Among wives, change in relationship satisfaction was also predicted by their husbands’ levels of anxiety at time 1. These results highlight the importance of studying the constructs of depression and anxiety simultaneously, and point to intriguing gender differences. The potential mechanisms behind these effects are discussed.