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Journal of Family Psychology © 2013 American Psychological Association

2013, Vol. 27, No. 5, 795– 805 0893-3200/13/$12.00 DOI: 10.1037/a0034009

Does Dyadic Coping Mediate the Relationship Between Emotional


Intelligence (EI) and Marital Quality?

Moshe Zeidner and Iris Kloda Gerald Matthews


University of Haifa University of Central Florida

This study tested for the mediational effects of dyadic coping in the observed relationship between
emotional intelligence, assessed both as ability and as trait, and quality of marital relations. We used a
standard dyadic design involving 100 newlywed heterosexual couples who were assessed on EI measures
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along with measures of dyadic coping and perceived marital quality. Total dyadic coping, as well as
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dyadic coping of oneself and dyadic coping of partner, were observed to mediate the association between
EI and marital quality. These data provide some support for the commonly held assumption that EI plays
a role in marital relationships, as mediated by dyadic coping. However, whereas the individual appears
to benefit from being emotionally intelligent, the benefit is not transmitted to the other partner in the
relationship.

Keywords: dyadic coping, emotional intelligence, family stress, marital quality

This study examines the mediating role of dyadic coping in vational traits and dispositions. These disparate positions give us
the observed relationship between emotional intelligence (EI), two primary, contrasting ways of assessing EI (Zeidner et al.,
assessed as both ability and as trait, and marital quality in 2009): (a) as a cognitive ability, best measured via performance-
heterosexual newlyweds. We begin our survey of the literature type tests, e.g., Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence
by briefly discussing EI and move on to discuss the role of EI Test (MSCEIT), Mayer, Salovey, & Caruso, 2002, and (b) as a
in marital relations. Next, we discuss the potential mediating personality trait, best measured via self-report inventories (e.g.,
role of dyadic coping with marital stress and adaptive marital Schutte Self-Report Inventory [SSRI], Schutte et al., 1998). Abil-
outcomes. ity and trait measures are typically only modestly positively cor-
related (Brackett & Mayer, 2003) or even independent (Zeidner &
EI and Marital Quality Kaluda, 2008). Although the trait EI construct shares a large
amount of variance with the affective facets of higher-order per-
EI represents a rich array of affective characteristics designed to
sonality traits— hence, trait EI, it also has been shown to capture
help one perceive, express, understand, apply, and manage emo-
additional emotion-related variance that allows it to predict well-
tions, particularly when encountering emotionally laden situations
being criteria incrementally over conventional personality mea-
(Zeidner, Matthews, & Roberts, 2009). In many ways, EI has been
sures (Petrides, Pita, & Kokkinaki, 2007).
heralded as a promising new construct in psychological science
that is directed toward improving the human condition, including There are several reasons why both variants of EI might be
close personal relationships (Brackett, Warner, & Bosco, 2005; associated with higher marital satisfaction. According to Mayer et
Zeidner et al., 2009). In view of the frequently claimed pivotal role al. (2000), key components of ability EI should shape both the
of EI in personal relations, EI has been claimed to play an impor- encoding of information and the regulation of emotion during
tant role in determining stability and happiness in romantic rela- partner interactions. On the “input” side, components include
tions and marriage as well (Fitness, 2001). accurate perception of emotion, integrating emotion with thought,
Although some authors (e.g., Mayer, Salovey, & Caruso, 2000) and understanding the meanings of emotion. Competencies in
have conceptualized and assessed EI as a cognitive ability, others “reading” and interpreting the emotional state of the other may
(e.g., Pérez, Petrides, & Furnham, 2005) have viewed EI as a trait, contribute positively to the quality of the relationship. On the
comprised of a conglomerate of affective, personality, and moti- “output” side, EI may relate to superior skills both in regulating
one’s own emotions, such as constructive expression of anger
during a dispute, and in regulating the other’s emotions, such as
comforting a partner who is upset. Brackett et al. (2005) review
Moshe Zeidner, Department of Counseling and Human Development, evidence that competencies including accurate emotion perception,
University of Haifa, Mt. Carmel, Israel; Iris Kloda, Gordon College of sensitivity in communication of emotion, and regulation of nega-
Education, University of Haifa; and Gerald Matthews, ACTIVE Lab,
tive emotions are associated with marital happiness. Trait EI scales
University of Central Florida.
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Moshe have been successful in predicting adaptive coping and well-being
Zeidner, Department of Counseling and Human Development, Univer- in a variety of contexts (see Zeidner, Matthews, & Roberts, 2012,
sity of Haifa, Aba Hushi St., Haifa, Mt. Carmel 31905, Israel. E-mail: for a review). Coping may be critical to trait EI, so that high trait
Zeidner@research.haifa.ac.il EI protects against a range of real-life stressors. Trait EI may then

795
796 ZEIDNER, KLODA, AND MATTHEWS

enhance marital relations through promoting more effective coping Overview of the Present Study
with stressors that impact both partners.
A number of empirical studies link both ability-based (Lopes This study sets out to examine the nexus of relationships be-
et al., 2004) and trait (Schutte et al., 2001) forms of EI to tween EI, assessed both as ability and as trait, dyadic coping, and
elevated marital satisfaction. However, two forms of relation- quality of marital relations in newlywed heterosexual couples. In
ship between EI and marital satisfaction might be distinguished. specific, we aim at achieving the following objectives.
First, the benefits of EI might be mainly personal; a high-EI
Objectives
individual might gain high personal satisfaction from the mar-
riage without providing any additional satisfaction to his or her First, the primary goal of the present study is to test a media-
partner. Second, high EI might be expressed through support of tional model in which a person’s EI is related to dyadic coping,
the other partner, for example, through regulating their emo- which in turn, impacts marital satisfaction. EI may serve as an
tions constructively as well as one’s own. These two possibil- enduring personal resource for coping dyadically and establishing
ities are distinguished in studies that differentiate “actor” and and maintaining positive personal relationships. Specifically, EI
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“partner” effects. Although a number of studies have failed to may enhance dyadic coping both through input processes— better
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report partner effects (Brackett et al., 2005; Zeidner & Kaluda, perception and understanding of their partner’s feelings—and
2008), Schröder-Abé and Schütz (2011) found that higher EI through output processes of more effective regulation of the emo-
was associated with higher levels of both actor and partner tions of self and other, resolving conflicts constructively, and
relationship satisfaction. Across these studies, actor effects adopting task-focused coping strategies such as alleviating their
appear more reliable than partner effects. partner of actual burdens. The dyadic coping construct may cap-
ture both the input and output elements of EI as they are integrated
EI and Dyadic Coping With Marital Stress and functionally in service of the common goal of supporting the
marriage. To our knowledge, no systematic research to date has
Conflict
actually tested the mediational role of dyadic coping in the EI-
Dyadic coping is based on the assumption that married persons marital satisfaction relationship. The simplest hypothesis is that EI
are embedded within a shared social context, with common con- supports the total dyadic coping of both partners, given that EI is
cerns and mutual goals and a large degree of interdependence. As said to be associated with both intra- and interpersonal competen-
a systemic pattern, dyadic coping entails coping strategies aimed at cies (Mayer et al., 2000). However, as detailed below, we aimed
maintaining or restoring the structural, functional, behavioral, also to test whether one’s own dyadic coping was a more reliable
emotional, and social balance of the entire dyadic system, as well mediator of EI effects than perceived dyadic coping of one’s
as the equilibrium of each partner. Dyadic coping, which occurs in partner.
addition to individual coping efforts, may be distinguished from A second, but related, objective was to compare the roles of
individual coping efforts (Bodenmann, 1995). various facets of dyadic coping (by oneself, by partner, total
Dyadic coping is related to, but can be clearly distinguished dyadic coping) in marital satisfaction. Bodenmann’s (2008) Dy-
from, more familiar constructs, such as social support (Boden- adic Coping Inventory (DCI), which we use in this study, has
mann, Pihet, & Kayser, 2006; Bodenmann, Randall, & Cutrona, become the standard measure in the field. According to DCI
2013). Thus, social support is often characterized as the unidirec- instructions, participants rate how they deal as a couple with
tional flow of resources in which one person provides aid to a stress. Dyadic coping is measured as an interpersonal construct,
second, stressed person, with the person receiving support gener- because the actor scores how he or she supports the other partner
ally considered the basic unit of analysis. By contrast, dyadic in dealing with his or her stress. The structure of the questionnaire
coping goes beyond social support, being based on the notion of allows measurement of both partners’ contributions to dyadic
interdependence and mutual influence; the dyad is viewed as the coping (one’s own and the partner’s dyadic coping). Bodenmann’s
basic unit of analysis. studies (Bodenmann, 1995; Bodenmann, 2005) suggest that both
A meta-analytic study (Bodenmann, 2005), based on 13 studies the DCI scales for these constructs predict marital quality. Thus,
and 783 couples, shows that positive dyadic coping is associated we tested total dyadic coping as a mediator. If marital quality
with better marital function and higher relationship satisfaction, depends on some synergy between self- and other-perceptions,
with dyadic coping accounting for 30%– 40% of the variance in total coping may be the strongest predictor out of the DCI scales.
marital satisfaction. Links between dyadic coping and marital However, self- and other-perceptions may be differentially related
quality have been reported to be in the absolute range of .39 to .65 to EI and thus play differing roles in mediating any effect of EI on
(Bodenmann, Bradbury, & Pihet, 2009). marital satisfaction. Specifically, if higher EI individuals are better
High-EI individuals show several attributes expected to support able to provide emotional support to their partners (Brackett et al.,
dyadic coping, including more effective communication patterns 2005), then EI should be associated with DCI dyadic coping by
(Smith, Heaven, & Ciarrochi, 2008) and perspective taking oneself, potentially leading to higher marital satisfaction in both
(Schröder-Abé & Schütz, 2011), as well as more general facilities partners. The role of perceived dyadic coping by partner is more
for adaptive coping and constructive mood regulation (Zeidner et equivocal. High EI of the self should promote more constructive
al., 2009, 2012). Thus, multiple attributes of high EI may work appraisals of the other partner and facilitation and support of the
together to enhance dyadic coping. To the extent that the contri- other’s coping efforts. Thus, we might expect positive associations
butions of one high-EI partner to dyadic coping are recognized between EI and dyadic coping by partner. However, EI may also
both by that person and the other partner, both actor and partner contribute to inaccurate perceptions of the partner. Thus, falsely
effects might be expected. believing an unsympathetic partner to be supportive is not emo-
DYADIC COPING 797

tionally intelligent. Thus, we expected that dyadic coping by self partners (H5), with dyadic coping by self demonstrating a stronger
would have a stronger role than dyadic coping by other in medi- role than dyadic coping by other in mediating associations between
ating associations between EI and marital quality. EI and marital quality (H6).
A third goal is to probe the relevance of dyadic coping to the
adjustment and marital quality of newlywed couples in the earlier Method
phases of their marital relationships. Past research on dyadic
coping has largely focused on longer-term couples facing major
life events and chronic stressors, with few studies examining
Participants
newlywed couples in relatively new relationships. Newlyweds are Participants were 100 recently newlywed heterosexual couples,
faced with a number of unique and distinct challenging tasks. married within 1 year of assessment, on average (M ⫽ 11 months,
Among other things, they need to negotiate: arriving at a satisfac- SD ⫽ 7.23). Participants were solicited from among the wider
tory division of marital roles and responsibilities; reestablishing or student population and were graduates of a major Israeli research
redefining ties, both as individual and as couple, with each mem- university. Participants ranged in age from 20 to 32 years (M ⫽
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ber’s extended family and peer network; and also learning ways to 25.87, SD ⫽ 2.71). Husbands were significantly older, on average,
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maintain and nurture their developing relationship. Although these than their spouses, 27.52 (2.62) ⬎ 25.87 (2.72), t(97) ⫽ ⫺7.30,
tasks are often begun prior to marriage, the early years of marriage p ⬍ .001, with dyadic partners strongly similar in age, r(98) ⫽ .67,
are usually the time in which major conflicts are first revealed and p ⬍ .001.
confronted. Because a couple’s ability to manage marital conflict
and reconcile differences may be an important determinant of
Measures
marital satisfaction and stability, the first year of marriage may be
a critical phase for the developmental course of the marriage. Ability-based EI. Ability-based EI was assessed via the 141-
A fourth and final objective of the present study is to assess the item MSCEIT V 2.0 (Mayer et al., 2002). The original English
effects of EI, assessed as both self-report and ability, in relation to version was translated into Hebrew by two bilingual psychologists
dyadic coping, on one hand, and perceived marital quality, on the and then back-translated to English by a third bilingual psychol-
other. Most prior studies have relied on the person’s self-reports of ogist, to ensure correspondence between the English and Hebrew
their EI, which may be biased by self-appraisals— both positive renditions. This performance-based assessment consists of eight
and negative. Indeed, questionnaire measures of trait EI may tasks assessing the four core branches of EI: (1) Perceiving Emo-
correlate with marital well-being precisely because both types of tions, (2) Emotional Facilitation, (3) Understanding Emotions, and
measure reflect how positive the person’s self-opinions are. This (4) Managing Emotions (Mayer et al., 2002). All items have either
study hopes to improve on prior research by the inclusion of both a multiple-choice format or 5-point rating scale format.
an ability-based and trait (self-report) measure of EI. This seems to All tests were proportion consensus-scored with consensus
be important for two reasons. First, the two measures may repre- weights determined from the entire sample (N ⫽ 200) of newly-
sent different constructs that contribute differentially to interper- weds. This approach has been justified on both empirical and
sonal interactions (Zeidner et al., 2009). Second, effects of trait EI rationale grounds (MacCann, Matthews, Zeidner, & Roberts,
may be vulnerable to common method construct variance (i.e., 2003). Specifically, the consensus scores that we used in this study
self-report measures of EI, coping, and marital quality), and so the reflect the proportion of participants in this study who endorsed
case for the relevance of EI to marital satisfaction may be stronger each MSCEIT test item. Responses were tallied, and participants
if also demonstrated using an ability measure. were given credit for responses to the extent that their answers
matched those provided by the sample. More specifically, under
this scoring technique, for example, a participant who chose 4 in
Research Hypotheses
the present investigation would receive a score of 0.42 for that item
Based on the assumption that EI and dyadic coping are both if 42% of the participants answered that that emotion was defi-
enduring resources for adaptive coping in close relationships nitely present, and so forth. Participants were given credit for
(Brackett et al., 2005; Zeidner et al., 2009), and some prior responses to the extent that their answers matched those provided
research attesting to positive associations between EI, coping, and by the sample. The alpha reliability of the total scale, which was
positive relationship outcomes, we predicted that EI, assessed as used in the various analyses, was .78 for both men and women.
trait and ability, will be positively associated with dyadic coping Because the MSCEIT is a relatively new instrument that has not
(H1); that dyadic coping will be strongly related to perceived yet been published in Hebrew, no national Hebrew norms are
marital quality (H2); and that EI will be positively related to presently available. Furthermore, based on our experience, Amer-
marital quality in dyadic partners (H3). Tests of hypotheses inves- ican norm group scoring does not work well in an Israeli sample
tigated both actor and partner effects of EI, but no prediction was (as it was shown in other, non-English-speaking countries).
made given conflicting results from previous studies. We also Trait EI. Trait EI was assessed via the SSRI. The SSRI
hypothesized that both ability and trait EI measures will be inde- (Schutte et al., 2001) is a widely used self-report inventory in
pendently associated with higher marital quality (H4), given that which individuals are instructed to give their level of endorsement
both constructs have been demonstrated to be related to marital to 33 statements describing aspects of emotional life (e.g., “I know
and well-being outcomes (Zeidner & Kaluda, 2008; Zeidner et al., why my emotions change”) on a scale ranging from 1 (strongly
2012) but are only weakly intercorrelated (Brackett & Mayer, agree) to 5 (strongly disagree). The original English version was
2003), at most. It was also hypothesized that dyadic coping will adapted to Hebrew via translation and back-translation procedures
significantly mediate the EI–marital quality relationship in dyadic outlined previously for the MSCEIT. The developers of this scale
798 ZEIDNER, KLODA, AND MATTHEWS

suggest that it provides a measure of general EI, and this measure tation of Norton’s Quality of Marriage Index (QMI, Norton, 1983).
showed satisfactory full-score reliability for the newlyweds in this The QMI is a six-item scale asking spouses to rate the extent to
study (.86 for both men and women). In contrast to the MSCEIT, which they agree with general statements about their marriage
this self-report measure does not directly tap people’s emotional (e.g., “We have a good marriage”). Both members of each couple
abilities but rather people’s self-reported beliefs about their emo- indicated how much they agreed (1 ⫽ strongly disagree, 9 ⫽
tional abilities. strongly agree) with each statement of the inventory. Raw scores
Dyadic coping patterns. Patterns of dyadic coping with were rescaled to T scores (M ⫽ 50, SD ⫽ 10) across participants.
sources of stress in marriage were assessed by the 37-item DCI Satisfactory alpha scale reliability coefficients were found in this
(Bodenmann, 2008). Participants were asked to consider their own study for both husbands (␣ ⫽ .92) and wives (␣ ⫽ .97).
and their partner’s stress and coping in the context of the stressful
events in their life. Both dyadic partners rated how frequently they Procedure
and their partner engage in certain coping and communication
behaviors on a scale of 1 (very rarely) to 6 (very often). Subscales Both dyadic partners were present in the lab during assessment.
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tapped stress communication of both self and partner (eight items; After signing of consent forms, each of the participants was seated
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“I show my partner through my behavior when I am not doing well in separate rooms and asked to complete an assessment battery that
or when I have problems,” “My partner tells me openly how he or included personal information, an ability-based measure of EI
she feels and that he or she would appreciate my support”); (MSCEIT) and a self-report measure of EI. After a break, partic-
supportive dyadic coping of self and partner (10 items: e.g., “My ipants completed the second part of the assessment battery, com-
partner expresses that he or she is on my side,” “I show empathy prised of the DCI and QMI. The couples were compensated for
and understanding to my partner”); delegated dyadic coping of self their participation.
and partner (four items: e.g., “My partner takes on things I nor-
mally do in order to help me out”; “When my partner feels he or Results
she has too much to do, I help him/her out”); common dyadic
coping (five item; e.g., “We help one another to put the problem in
Preliminary Analyses
perspective and see it in a new light”); and negative dyadic coping
(eight items; e.g., “I do not take my partner’s stress seriously,” Table 1 presents descriptive statistics for the research variables,
“When I’m stressed, my partner tends to withdraw”). separately for each dyadic partner. As shown in Table 1, no
The following two subscales proposed by Bodenmann (2008) significant differences were observed on self-reported EI, total
were used in the multivariate analyses testing of key hypotheses in dyadic coping scores, and marital well-being between husbands
this study: (a) dyadic coping by oneself aggregate scale (15 items; and wives. Wives scored slightly higher than their husbands on
alphas: Males ⫽ .76, Females ⫽ .82) and (b) dyadic coping by ability-based EI. Tables 2 and 3 present within- and between-
partner (15 items; alphas: Males ⫽ .76, Females ⫽ .82). The partner correlations, respectively, between EI scales, aggregate
dyadic coping of oneself and dyadic coping by partner aggregate dyadic scales, and marital quality. As shown in Table 2, although
scales are comprised of a linear sum of items scores of the the trait EI measure was significantly correlated with each of the
following subscales targeting self and other, respectively: stress dyadic coping measures in both husbands and wives (supporting
communication (k ⫽ 4 items); supportive dyadic coping (k ⫽ 5), H1), the ability EI measure was significantly correlated with
delegated coping (k ⫽ 2), and low negative dyadic coping (k ⫽ 4, dyadic measures in husbands only. The intercorrelations between
with reverse scoring of items). Items were scored in the direction ability-based and trait measures of EI were very low in both gender
of more positive dyadic coping, exclusive of two evaluation items. groups, as is often the case (see Zeidner et al., 2009). However, the
Furthermore, we used a total dyadic coping scale comprised of the two EI measures were significantly, though modestly, correlated
sum score of all scale item ratings, save for two evaluation items, for wives but not for husbands—an unexpected finding. As ex-
scored in the direction of positive dyadic coping (35 items; alphas: pected (H2), all the dyadic coping measures were substantially
Husbands ⫽ .91, Wives ⫽ .94). correlated with marital quality. As shown in Table 3, the between-
As Bodenmann noted (personal communication, February 7, partner correlations on dyadic coping indices as well as perceived
2013), the DCI scale gauges dyadic coping (not individual coping), quality of marital relations were consistently significant. Curi-
but the assessment also reflects the individual’s perspective. Thus, ously, correlations among dyadic partners on EI measures were
scores not only reflect the objective quality of coping but also the negligible.
individual’s appraisal, which may be subject to bias. One partner
might over- or underestimate the true effectiveness of dyadic
Modeling Actor and Partner Effects
coping. The role of appraisal bias explains why self- and other-
scores for dyadic coping are significantly but imperfectly posi- Analytic strategy. We used the Actor-Partner Independence
tively correlated (Bodenmann, 2005). Furthermore, as noted by Model (APIM; Kenny, Kashy, & Cook, 2006) in our analyses
Bodenmann, the particular type of stress (chronic, acute) does not because it has been shown to adequately handle the lack of
need to be specified in the instructions because it can relate to independence that is present in data from couples, providing sep-
minor stressors as well as major stressful events, with individuals arate estimates of actor and partner effects. Paths for within-spouse
generally finding it difficult to distinguish these forms of stress (actor) effects and cross-spouse (partner) effects were modeled via
accurately. AMOS 18. The general strategy in specifying path models with a
Marital satisfaction. Perceived quality of marital relations dyadic design is that the model is drawn twice, once for each
(marital satisfaction) was assessed via a modified Hebrew adap- member of the dyad (Kenny et al., 2006). We correlated all
DYADIC COPING 799

Table 1
Descriptive Statistics for Key Individual Level Variables in the Study, by Gender

Husbands Wives
Key variables M SD M SD ta db

Emotional intelligence
MSCEIT (total) .42 .04 .44 .03 ⫺3.77ⴱ ⫺.38ⴱ
Schutte (total) 127.02 13.11 130.07 12.68 ⫺1.78 ⫺.22
Dyadic coping
DCOtot 4.56 .55 4.70 .59 ⫺2.08ⴱ ⫺.21
DCPtot 4.66 .60 4.64 .72 .33 .03
DCItot 4.56 .56 4.63 .65 .07 ⫺.10
Marital quality 8.27 .88 8.20 1.26 .70 .07
Note. MSCEIT ⫽ Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test; DCOtot ⫽ total score of dyadic coping
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by oneself; DCPtot ⫽ total score of dyadic coping by the partner; DCItot ⫽ total score of the Dyadic Coping
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Inventory.
a
Calculated as t tests for dependent measures. b d scores for dependent measures were calculated by dividing
the difference score by the standard deviation of the difference score.

p ⬍ .05.

exogenous variables across dyad members, and we also correlated tion. An unconditional path model testing for actor and partner
the disturbances across dyad members, thus allowing for noninde- effects in the relation between both self-report and ability-based
pendence of the data. As a rule, we first made comparisons EI, as exogenous variables, and marital quality, as endogenous
between models in which paths were allowed to vary freely and variables, proved to be a “just identified” model, with 0 degrees of
then constrained actor or partner paths, whatever may be the case, freedom. When actor effects were constrained to be equal for
to equality, for husbands and wives. If the constrained model did husbands and wives, the conditional model showed a reasonable
not worsen the fit significantly relative to the unconstrained model, fit, ␹2 (2) ⫽ 4.2, p ⫽ .62. When both actor and partner effects were
we preferred the simpler model, suggesting that the actor or partner constrained to be equal for dyadic pairs, this restriction yielded an
paths in the model were invariant for husbands and wives. almost an identical fit as the previous model tested, ␹2 (4) ⫽ 4.31,
Mediation for dyadic coping in the relationship between EI and p ⫽ .37, CFI ⫽ .94, NFI ⫽ .92, and RMSEA ⫽ .03. However,
marital quality was tested by comparing the chi-square fit of the when actor and partner effects were constrained to be equal in the
“full” model that included paths for direct effects of EI predicting model, this model showed an unsatisfactory fit, ␹2 (6) ⫽ 22.90,
relationship quality to the fit of “reduced” models, where these p ⬍ .001, significantly worsening the fit, ␹diff
2
(2) ⫽ 18.59, p ⬍
direct paths were not estimated. When comparing models, results .001. Thus, although actor effects for dyadic pairs were significant
are presented below in the form of chi-square (␹2) difference tests. for both self-report EI (husbands, p ⫽ .30, wives, p ⫽ .29) and
If the difference in model fit between the full and reduced model ability based EI (husbands, p ⫽ .22, wives, p ⫽ .17), the partner
was not found to be statistically significant, there was evidence of effects were negligible for both self-report EI (husbands, p ⫽ .05,
mediation. We tested separate models for the mediating effects of wives, p ⫽ .04), and ability-based EI (husbands, p ⫽ ⫺.06, wives,
total dyadic coping, dyadic coping by oneself, and dyadic coping p ⫽ ⫺.04). Thus, H3 and H4 were supported for actor but not
by one’s partner, in turn. partner effects.
Testing for actor and partner effects for EI and total dyadic Next, we tested a path model linking EI, assessed as both trait
coping and marital quality. We first tested a path model linking and ability, to total dyadic coping (as a further test of H1). An
EI, assessed as both trait and ability, to perceived marital satisfac-
Table 3
Table 2 Between-Partner Correlations Among Key Variables
Within Partner Correlations Among Key Variables (Men Above
Husbands
Diagonal, Women Below Diagonal)
Variables 1 2 3 4 5 6
Variables 1 2 3 4 5 6
Wives
1. MSCEIT — .10 .33ⴱ .33ⴱ .33ⴱ .31ⴱ 1. Ability EI .07 .10 .07 .10 .05 .01
2. SSRI .23ⴱ — .44ⴱ .20ⴱ .35ⴱ .23ⴱ 2. EI-SR .02 .14 .07ⴱ .10 .12 .09
3. DCOtot .12 .53ⴱ — .76ⴱ .93ⴱ .57ⴱ 3. DCOtot .06 .08 .25ⴱⴱ .42ⴱⴱ .37ⴱⴱ .34ⴱⴱ
4. DCPtot .19 .38ⴱ .78ⴱ — .93ⴱ .66ⴱ 4. DCPtot .10 .13 .32ⴱⴱ .37ⴱⴱ .38ⴱⴱ .36ⴱⴱ
5. DCItot .15 .48ⴱ .92ⴱ .95ⴱ — .69ⴱ 5. DCItot .07 .11 .29ⴱⴱ .41ⴱⴱ .39ⴱⴱ .38ⴱⴱ
6. Marital quality .15 .41ⴱ .66ⴱ .65ⴱ .70ⴱ — 6. Marital quality ⫺.03 .08 .27ⴱⴱ .39ⴱⴱ .37ⴱⴱ .32ⴱⴱ
Note. Correlations for husbands and wives appear above and below the Note. Dyadic correlations on identical variables appear on the diag-
main diagonal (—), respectively. MSCEIT ⫽ Mayer-Salovey-Caruso onal (boldface). EI ⫽ emotional intelligence; EI-SR ⫽ self-report EI;
Emotional Intelligence Test; DCOtot ⫽ total score of dyadic coping by DCOtot ⫽ total score of dyadic coping by oneself; DCPtot ⫽ total score
oneself; DCPtot ⫽ total score of dyadic coping by the partner; DCItot ⫽ of dyadic coping by the partner; DCItot ⫽ total score of the Dyadic
total score of the Dyadic Coping Inventory. Coping Inventory.

p ⬍ .05. ⴱⴱ p ⬍ .01. ⴱ
p ⬍ .05. ⴱⴱ p ⬍ .01.
800 ZEIDNER, KLODA, AND MATTHEWS

unconditional path model testing for actor and partner effects in significant (p ⬍ .05) for the EI measures. In fact, indirect effects
the relation between both self-report and ability-based EI, as comprised more than 85% of the total standardized effects for trait
exogenous variables, and total dyadic coping, as endogenous vari- EI measures (Husbands: 86%, Wives ⫽ .85%) and about 65% for
ables, proved to be a “just identified” model, with 0 degrees of ability measures (Husbands: 64%, Wives ⫽ .67%). A comparison
freedom. When actor effects, for both EI measures, were con- of this model with a reduced model not including the direct effects
strained to be equal for husbands and wives, the conditional model from EI measures to marital quality, ␹2 (17) ⫽ 19.66, p ⫽ .24, did
showed a less than satisfactory fit, ␹2 (2) ⫽ 4.64, p ⫽ .09, CFI ⫽ not significantly worsen the model, ␹diff 2
(2) ⫽ 1.92, ns. Therefore,
.95, NFI ⫽ .94, and RMSEA ⫽ .12, AIC ⫽ 54.64. When both actor the more parsimonious model, without the direct paths from EI
and partner effects were constrained to be equal for dyadic pairs measures to marital satisfaction, was preferred over the less par-
this restriction yielded a more satisfactory fit, ␹2 (4) ⫽ 4.91, p ⫽ simonious model (supporting H5).
.30, CFI ⫽ .98, NFI ⫽ .94, and RMSEA ⫽ .05, AIC ⫽ 50.91. Thus, Mediating effects for dyadic coping of self and others.
whereas actor effects for dyadic pairs were significant for both Finally, we conducted separate tests for the mediating effects of
self-report EI (husbands: .40, p ⬍ .001; wives: .35, p ⬍ .001) and the two components of total dyadic coping: dyadic coping of self
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ability based EI (husbands: .23, p ⬍ .002; wives: .15, p ⬍ .002), and dyadic coping of one’s partner, in turn.
This document is copyrighted by the American Psychological Association or one of its allied publishers.

partner effects were negligible for both self-report EI (husbands: Dyadic coping by self. Mediation models were analogous to
.04; wives: .04), and ability-based EI (husbands: .03; wives: .03). those tested for total dyadic coping. The unconstrained model,
When actor and partner effects were constrained to be equal, this including both direct and indirect paths from EI measures to
model showed an unsatisfactory fit, ␹2 (6) ⫽ 27.73, p ⬍ .001, marital quality, via dyadic coping of self, yielded a satisfactory fit,
significantly worsening the fit, ␹diff
2
(2) ⫽ 22.82, p ⬍ .001. ␹2 (10) ⫽ 13.37, p ⫽ .20, with satisfactory fit indices, CFI ⫽ .98,
Finally, we tested path model testing for actor and partner NFI ⫽ .91, RMSEA ⫽ .06, AIC ⫽ 81.37. When actor effects were
effects in the relation between total dyadic coping and marital constrained to be equal for husbands and wives, this model showed
quality. The unconstrained model was saturated (just identified), a satisfactory fit, ␹2 (15) ⫽ 19.34, ⫽ .20, CFI ⫽ .97, NFI ⫽ .90,
with 0 degrees of freedom. When actor effects were constrained to RMSEA ⫽ .05, AIC ⫽ 77.34. Because these constraints did not
be equal for husbands and wives, the conditional model showed a significantly worsen the model, ␹diff 2
(5) ⫽ 5.97, this suggests that
reasonable fit, ␹2 (1) ⫽ .39, p ⫽ .83; the model yielded acceptable the actor effects in the model are invariant for husbands and wives.
values for all indices, CFI ⫽ 1.00, NFI ⫽ .99, and RMSEA ⫽ .000, As shown in Figure 2a, depicting direct and indirect paths, the
AIC ⫽ 26.39. When both actor and partner effects were con- direct paths from EI measures to perceived marital quality were
strained to be equal for husbands and wives, the model was not statistically insignificant for self-reported EI and ability-based EI. The
significantly worse, ␹2 (2) ⫽ .41, p ⫽ .81, showing acceptable indirect paths, from EI to marital quality, through dyadic coping of
values for all indices: CFI ⫽ 1.00, NFI ⫽ .99, and RMSEA ⫽ self, were statistically significant (p ⬍ .05) for trait EI and also for
0000, AIC ⫽ 24.43. The model showed significant actor ability EI. Indirect effects comprise the lion’s share of the total
(Husband ⫽ .62, p ⬍ .001, Wife ⫽ .68, p ⬍ .001) and partner variance for trait EI (Husbands: 87%, Wives ⫽ 84%), but less so for
(Husband ⫽ .11, p ⬍ .02, Wife ⫽ .14, p ⬍ .02) effects. However, ability measures (Husbands: 45%, Wives ⫽ 50%). A comparison of
when both actor and partner effects were constrained to be equal, this model with a reduced model not including the direct effects from
this model, ␹2 (3) ⫽ 28.74, p ⫽ .001, significantly worsened the EI measures to marital quality, ␹2 (17) ⫽ 22.80, p ⫽ .16, did not
fit, ␹diff
2
(1) ⫽ 28.31 p ⬍ .001. This suggests that actor effects are significantly worsen the model, ␹diff 2
(2) ⫽ 3.46, ns. Therefore, the
stronger than partner effects, although both were shown to be more parsimonious model, without the direct paths, was preferred
significant. over the less parsimonious model, suggesting full mediation.
Given that only actor effects, but no partner effects, were found Dyadic coping of other (partner). Having shown that dyadic
in the association of EI with both marital satisfaction and dyadic coping by oneself mediates the EI–marital quality relationship, we
coping, respectively, only actor effects were tested in the mediat- next tested for the mediating effects of dyadic coping by partner. The
ing models below. unconstrained model, including both direct and indirect paths from EI
Mediating analyses for total dyadic coping. We tested first measures to marital quality, via dyadic coping of partner, yielded a
for the mediating effects of total dyadic coping in accounting for satisfactory fit, ␹2 (10) ⫽ 18.02, p ⫽ .06, CFI ⫽ .95, NFI ⫽ .91
the EI–marital quality association. The unconstrained model, in- RMSEA ⫽ .09, AIC ⫽ 205.62. When actor effects were constrained
cluding both direct and indirect paths from EI measures to marital to be equal for husbands and wives, this model showed no less a
quality, via total dyadic coping, yielded a satisfactory fit ␹2 (10) ⫽ satisfactory fit, ␹2 (15) ⫽ 24.98, p ⫽ .05, CFI ⫽ .94, NFI ⫽ .87,
12.03, p ⫽ .28, with satisfactory fit indices, CFI ⫽ .99, NFI ⫽ .95, RMSEA ⫽ .08, AIC ⫽ 82.52. Because these constraints did not
RMSEA ⫽ .05, AIC ⫽ 80.03. When actor effects were constrained significantly worsen the model, ␹diff 2
(5) ⫽ 6.98, this suggests that the
to be equal for husbands and wives, this model also showed a actor effects in the model are invariant for husbands and wives.
satisfactory fit, ␹2 (15) ⫽ 17.74, p ⫽ .20, CFI ⫽ .99, NFI ⫽ .92, As shown in Figure 2b, the indirect paths, from EI to marital
RMSEA ⫽ .04, AIC ⫽ 75.74. Because the constraints imposed did quality, through dyadic coping of partner were statistically signif-
not significantly worsen the model at the .05 level of probability, icant (p ⬍ .05) for trait EI and also for ability EI. At the same time,
␹diff
2
(5) ⫽ 1.92, ns, this suggests that the actor effects in the model the direct paths from EI measures to perceived marital quality were
are invariant for husbands and wives. statistically significant for trait EI but were statistically insignifi-
As shown in Figure 1, the direct paths from EI measures to cant for ability EI. Although the indirect effects account for about
perceived marital quality were statistically insignificant for self- half of the total path effects for trait EI (Husbands: 48%, Wives:
reported EI and ability-based EI. The indirect paths, from EI to 50%), the indirect effects account for about two thirds of the total
marital quality, through dyadic coping of self, were statistically path effects for ability EI (Husbands: 64%, Wives: 67%). A
DYADIC COPING 801
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Figure 1. Path diagram of mediating effects of total dyadic coping in the relationship between EI and marital
quality. Standardized path coefficients are presented in the path diagram. Statistically significant (p ⬍ .05) paths
among observed measures appear in bold fonts. N ⫽ 200.

comparison of this model with a reduced model not including the coping of oneself in marital partners. Facilitation of dyadic
direct effects from EI measures to marital quality, ␹2 (17) ⫽ 22.80, coping by high EI is compatible with several attributes of EI,
p ⫽ .15, did not significantly worsen the model, ␹diff
2
(2) ⫽ 2.18, including more effective emotional communication and regula-
ns. Therefore, the more parsimonious model, without the direct tion, perspective taking, and adaptive coping (Schutte et al.,
paths, was preferred over the less parsimonious model. Overall, 2001; Zeidner et al., 2012). However, these findings leave open
these analyses confirm the general prediction that dyadic coping, the issue of whether EI relates to actual dyadic coping behav-
mediates the observed relationship between EI and marital quality, iors or only to perceptions of dyadic coping. Also, analyses
but we did not confirm the hypothesis that dyadic coping by self suggested that EI does not show “partner effects” with respect
would have the strongest mediating effect (H6). to dyadic coping. Why EI does not spillover to impact one’s
partner’s dyadic coping is puzzling and remains to be resolved;
Discussion this finding certainly is not congenial with the basic assump-
tions pervading in the EI literature. The result is compatible
This study investigated the nexus of relations between EI, one’s with the notion that EI influences perceptions more strongly
own dyadic coping, and perceived marital quality, using a standard than actual behavior, an issue to which we return when discuss-
matched-pairs dyadic design. Bivariate analyses confirmed that EI, ing mediation models. It is noted, however, that partner effects
dyadic coping, and marital quality tend to be positively intercor- are rarely reported in the literature with most prior studies on
related. We now discuss our findings from the APIM analyses in personal variables and relational outcomes attesting mainly to
relation to key hypotheses. actor effects (though see Schröder-Abé & Schütz, 2011).

EI and Dyadic Coping (H1) Dyadic Coping and Marital Satisfaction (H2)
Both pairwise correlations and path effects suggest that EI, As hypothesized, based on theory and prior research, our data
assessed as both trait and ability, was positively associated with suggest that both one’s own and the other partner’s dyadic coping
one’s own dyadic coping, supporting H1. These data lend reliably covaries with the quality of intimate relationships. The
support to the observed “actor effect” of EI in relation to dyadic strong correlations between dyadic coping and marital outcomes
802 ZEIDNER, KLODA, AND MATTHEWS
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Figure 2. Path diagram of mediating effects of dyadic coping by self (a) and by partner (b) in the relationship
between EI and marital quality. Standardized path coefficients are presented in the path diagram. Statistically
significant (p ⬍ .05) paths appear in bold fonts. N ⫽ 200.

reported in our study are consistent with links between dyadic the relationship between EI and marital outcome factors (Brackett
coping and marital quality previously reported in the literature (cf. et al., 2005; Smith et al., 2008). They contrast with Schröder-Abé
Bodenmann et al., 2009). However, much of previous research has and Schütz’s (2011) finding that trait EI relates to both actor and
typically focused on older couples married for longer durations partner effects, in a study that used APIM analyses similar to our
(e.g., Bodenmann, 2005). This study confirms the importance of own.
dyadic coping for newlyweds, notwithstanding the unique qualities
of the first year of marriage. Links Between Trait and Ability-Based EI and
Perceived Marital Quality (H4)
EI and Marital Quality (H3)
A general challenge for research on EI is that trait and ability
Our path-analytic data supported our third hypothesis predicting measures of EI sometimes fail to converge and even yield diamet-
that EI, assessed as trait and ability, is significantly predictive of rically opposite results (Zeidner, Shani-Zinovich, Matthews, &
perceived quality of marital relations in both husbands and wives. Roberts, 2005). In the present data, the two types of measure were
However, no partner effects were found; high EI benefits the self significantly but weakly correlated in women (r ⫽ .23), but inde-
but not the other person. These findings are consistent with prior pendent in men, suggesting that the measures may in fact be
research reporting significant actor— but no partner— effects in assessing different constructs. Nevertheless, both tests correlated
DYADIC COPING 803

with marital satisfaction. In the APIM models, both trait and coping measures were only moderately correlated. If EI influenced
ability EI were independently predictive of marital quality, sup- actual coping (e.g., if emotionally intelligent individuals were
porting H4. Similarly, both measures independently predicted the experts in social problem-solving), partner effects would be ex-
person’s own dyadic coping. pected. High EI in one spouse seems to confer few visible benefits
The present results follow the more general findings in the on the couple as a whole. Alternatively, high EI may enhance
well-being literature (Martins, Ramalho, Morin, 2010; Zeidner et self-appraisal. The emotionally intelligent person may view the
al., 2012) that trait and ability EI measures predict similar criteria, couple’s dyadic coping optimistically, leading to higher marital
despite their near-independence. Present findings also confirm that satisfaction. Trait EI, in particular, has been linked to higher
trait EI may be somewhat more predictive of outcomes than is self-esteem and a range of positive appraisals that are not neces-
ability EI. For example, in the Martins et al. (2010) meta-analysis, sarily rooted in objective reality (Zeidner et al., 2009). The overlap
effect sizes for associations with mental health were .17 for the of trait EI with general traits, such as extraversion and emotional
Mayer-Salovey ability EI tests and .28 for the trait EI Schutte stability that overlap with self-esteem, likely contributes to these
scale. associations.
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Present findings may, of course, reflect overlap between trait EI A related explanation for the EI effects here is that high EI
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and personality, given that various personality traits that correlate biases perceptions of similarity in dyadic coping. Perceived sim-
with EI reliably predict coping (Connor-Smith & Flachsbart, ilarity relates more to relationship quality than does actual simi-
2007). In fact, many of the prior studies on EI and adaptive larity, both in relation to general behavioral characteristics (Aci-
outcomes are plagued by common method construct variance. telli, Douvan, & Veroff, 1993), and to dyadic coping specifically
Self-report assessments rely on the person’s self-reports of their (Iafrate, Bertoni, Margola, Cigoli, & Acitelli, 2012). Thus, actors
subjective well-being and adaptive social functioning, which may high in EI may evaluate each partner as committing effort to
be biased by self-appraisals. That is, marital or social well-being dyadic coping, whereas the low EI actor may tend to perceive the
may correlate with questionnaire measures of EI in part because other partner as failing to pull their weight. In newlyweds, realism
both types of measure reflect how positive the person’ self- in perceptions of one’s partner may be incompatible with the
opinions are. Alternatively, ability and trait scales may pick up idealization of the other typical of the early phase of love (Iafrate,
different adaptive processes contributing to marital harmony, such Bertoni, Donato, & Finkenauer, 2012). Thus, high EI at this stage
as coping in the case of trait EI, and more narrowly defined skills may reside not in practical problem-solving but in fostering ro-
for emotion perception, understanding and management in the case mantic fantasy adaptively, feeding into perceptions of dyadic cop-
of ability EI. ing, consistent with Bodenmann’s (e.g., 2006) view that dyadic
coping enhances cognitive representations of the relationship as
Mediation Effects of Dyadic Coping in the EI–Marital supportive.
We also compared the roles of dyadic coping by oneself and
Quality Relationship (H5 and H6)
dyadic coping by partner in marital satisfaction. Our data are
Results are consistent with H5, predicting that total dyadic coping consistent with prior research (Bodenmann, 2005, 2008; Boden-
will mediate the relationship between EI and marital quality. The mann et al., 2009) suggesting that both DCI scales predict marital
indirect effects for dyadic coping in the EI–marital quality relationship quality. With respect to dyadic coping of oneself, high EI individ-
were found for both EI measures, although they were stronger for trait uals may be better able to provide emotional support to their
EI than for ability EI. Thus, these data, in part, support the notion that partners, handle conflicts effectively, forgive their partners, and
individuals who perceive they can identify, apply, understand, and cope dyadically, potentially leading to their higher marital satis-
regulate their emotions also report stronger dyadic coping, which in faction. We suggested initially that the role of dyadic coping by
turn, impacts on marital outcomes. This is the first study, to our partner is more equivocal, in that EI should relate primarily to
knowledge, demonstrating the mediating effects of dyadic coping in accurate perceptions of the partner, rather than to perceiving the
the relationship between trait EI and marital outcomes. partner as necessarily supportive. However, the observed associ-
Our bivariate data suggested differential relations between EI mea- ations between EI and dyadic coping by partner suggest that high
sures and perceived marital quality by gender, with the MSCEIT EI is broadly associated with more supportive coping by partner, as
being more predictive for men than for women, similar to Brackett et well as perhaps more constructive appraisals of the other partner.
al. (2005) and Smith et al. (2008). To the extent that men tend to be Overall, the mediational analyses showing significant mediating
lower than women in ability EI, as confirmed here, low EI scores may effects for dyadic coping, as well as for both self and partner,
impact men more strongly. However, in the APIM models, constrain- suggest that it is perceptions of overall dyadic coping, regardless of
ing paths for husbands and wives to be equal did not lead to any loss who is doing the coping, that are most important.
of fit, implying that gender differences may not be robust. An inter-
esting detail of the findings was that self-report and ability EI were
Limitations
positively correlated in men but not women; the higher EI of women
may be reflected in more veridical self-reports. The current study has a number of limitations. First, a signifi-
The nature of the EI effects here, such that high EI benefits the cant limitation of this study is that it is entirely cross-sectional, and
self but not the partner, suggests how perceived dyadic coping may it is therefore difficult to untangle the direction of cause and effect
affect relationship quality. The dyadic coping measure likely re- relationships here. For example, it is possible that one of the
flects both actual coping behaviors and the individual’s percep- consequences of being in a high-quality intimate relationship is
tions of coping activity and effectiveness. As in the studies of that people become better able to deal with their emotions. Second,
Bodenmann et al. (e.g., 2006), corresponding self and partner we utilized the performance-based measure—the MSCEIT— using
804 ZEIDNER, KLODA, AND MATTHEWS

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10.1002/per.818 Accepted June 27, 2013 䡲