Fiery Wives and Icy Husbands: Childhood Abuse and Subsequent Maladaptive Marital Communication Patterns

Kristy Krivickas, Bowling Green State University
Laura A. Sanchez, Bowling Green State University
Catherine T. Kenney, Bowling Green State University

This study uses couple-level data (Marriage Matters, 1998-2004) to explore the potential effects of childhood abuse on subsequent marital communication patterns among newlywed couples. We explore whether childhood abuse not only fosters poor communication skills, but whether it has gendered effects, reinforcing high conflict “fiery” styles among wives and withdrawing “icy” styles among husbands. A unique contribution of our study is our ability to address whether premarital counseling and marriage-promotion efforts can mediate negative effects of childhood abuse. Specifically, we study whether couples who elect covenant marriage have healthier communication styles than those who elect standard marriage. If they do, we further study whether these buffering effects arise largely as selection effects arising from a lower likelihood of experiencing childhood abuse and/or a greater likelihood of undertaking marital counseling and marital counseling of higher quality. This study thus will contribute directly to policy and demographic research on marriage strengthening efforts.

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Presented in Poster Session 1