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marital conflict resolution DOI: 10.1177/0265407517721380


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styles and marital quality


trajectory during the early
years of Chinese marriage

Xiaomin Li1, Hongjian Cao1,2, Jing Lan1, Xiaoyan Ju3,


Yingxian Zheng1, Yi Chen1, Nan Zhou1, and Xiaoyi Fang1

Abstract
Based on three annual waves of data obtained from 194 Chinese couples during the first
few years of marriage, this study examined how couples’ marital conflict resolution styles
might change over time and also the association between such patterns of changes and
the developmental trajectories of marital quality. Using latent transition analysis, at each
of the three waves, we consistently identified four groups of couples based on the
various types of strategies they employed when resolving marital conflicts: Cooperative
Couples, Avoidant Couples, Aggressive Couples, and Aggressive Wife-Avoidant Husband Cou-
ples, and then we further classified couples into five groups based on their conflict
resolution style transition patterns across the three waves: Steadily Constructive Pattern
Group, More Constructive Pattern Group, Unpredictable Pattern Group, More Destructive
Pattern Group, and Steadily Destructive Pattern Group. Lastly, utilizing the dyadic growth
curve model, we linked the conflict resolution profiles identified at the first wave to both
the initial levels of and the change rates of marital quality across waves and also linked the
further identified conflict resolution style transition pattern groups to the change rates
of marital quality across waves.

1
Institute of Developmental Psychology, Beijing Normal University, China
2
School of Education, Guangzhou University, China
3
School of Social Work, China Youth University for Political Sciences, China

Corresponding author:
Xiaoyi Fang and Xiaomin Li, Institute of Developmental Psychology, Beijing Normal University, Beijing
100875, China.
Emails: fangxy@bnu.edu.cn; lixiaominbnu@gmail.com
2 Journal of Social and Personal Relationships XX(X)

Keywords
Chinese couple, dyadic growth curve model, latent transition analysis, marital conflict
resolution, marital quality

A substantial body of research has examined the associations between marital conflict
resolution processes and conjugal outcomes (Fincham, 2004; Woodin, 2011). In par-
ticular, the implications of specific conflict resolution strategies for couple relationship
well-being have been somewhat well documented. As several comprehensive reviews of
marital communication research suggested (e.g., Driver, Tabares, Shapiro, & Gottman,
2012; Fincham, 2004; Gottman & Notarius, 2000), constructive conflict resolution
strategies (e.g., negotiation and accommodation) often are positively linked to conjugal
well-being, whereas destructive conflict resolution strategies (e.g., avoidance and
aggression) generally have detrimental effects on marital health.
In the “real” daily marital lives, however, spouses often simultaneously engage in a
mixture of different strategies when resolving conflicts, and these strategies are often
highly interconnected with each other (e.g., physical attack, verbal aggression, and
demanding are often concomitant). Thus, it might be inappropriate to arbitrarily separate
one strategy from the others when considering their influences on couple relationship
well-being (Ridley & Feldman, 2003; Ridley, Wihelm, & Surra, 2001; Stolarski, Postek,
& Smieja, 2011). In other words, it might not be spouses’ specific, individual conflict
resolution strategies but actually the complex combinations of various types of conflict
resolution strategies that ultimately shape the fate of marital relationships. For example,
negative behaviors during marital interactions might have particularly stronger detri-
mental effects on couple relationship well-being when few positive behaviors are
exchanged between partners (e.g., Bradbury & Karney, 2004; Johnson et al., 2005;
Smith, Vivian, & O’Leary, 1990). Thus, it seems that making further sense of the links
between marital conflict resolution strategies and couple relationship outcomes could
hinge on examinations from a more holistic perspective. That is, investigating how
different conflict resolution strategies operate in conjunction with each other (i.e., the
interdependence of various conflict resolution strategies) rather than independently to
exert their influences on marital relationship well-being.
To our knowledge, one of the most appropriate ways to address such questions might
be first classifying couples or spouses into different groups based on the various stra-
tegies that they employ when resolving marital conflicts and then linking the identified
group memberships to couple relationship outcomes. This approach has been introduced
and/or utilized in an emerging yet still quite limited body of research (e.g., Cao et al.,
2015; Fitzpatrick, 1988; Gottman & Levenson, 1992; Houts, Barnett-Walker, Paley, &
Cox, 2008). Furthermore, the classification or typology models identified in these studies
have been shown to be useful and reliable in distinguishing between distressed and
nondistressed couples and in predicting couple relationship quality and stability (e.g.,
Busby & Holman, 2009; Fitzpatrick, Vangelisti, & Firman, 1994; Gottman, 1993).
In terms of the specific statistical analytic strategies, as compared to the more tra-
ditional, variable-centered methods, the person-centered methods (e.g., latent profile
Li et al. 3

analyses, latent transition analyses) seem to be much more helpful for addressing the
aforementioned research questions. Despite the various strengths that the variable-
centered models can offer, they have been increasingly criticized for the potential
failures to appropriately “capture the configurations of factors that jointly explain
behavioral processes” (Bauer & Shanahan, 2007, p. 256) and adequately reveal the
heterogeneity inherent within groups. In contrast, the person-centered approaches treat
individuals, couples, or families as integrated units and seek to identify subgroups
sharing similar profiles across multiple indicators/dimensions (Collins & Lanza, 2010;
Jobe-Shields, Andrews, Parra, & Williams, 2015; Lanza, Flaherty, & Collins, 2003).
Therefore, during the recent decades, the person-centered approaches have been more
widely utilized to investigate the variability of the configurations of various factors
across individuals, couples, or families to identify subgroups of units with more
homogeneous patterns of those factors (e.g., Cao et al., 2015; Copeland, Shanahan,
Costello, & Angold, 2009).
According to the family development theories (Rodgers & White, 1993; White &
Klein, 2008), the associations between marital conflict resolution processes and marital
outcomes might be especially salient during the very early years of marriage. This is a
stressful, transitional stage during which spouses are particularly likely to get involved
into conflicts when coping with the dramatic changes from singlehood to marriage
(Huston, 1994; Niehuis, Reifman, Feng, & Huston, 2016). As such, effectively handling
conflicts through daily interactions is among the most primary interpersonal tasks faced
by newlyweds (Karney & Bradbury, 1995; Schneewind & Gerhard, 2002; Storaasli &
Markman, 1990). Moreover, couple interactive patterns during the very first few years of
marriage are not only particularly open to influences and changes (Dennison, Koerner, &
Segrin, 2014; Durtschi, 2011; Scheeren, Veras, Goulart, & Wagner, 2014) but also likely
to set in motion processes that could contribute to the establishment of stable interactive
patterns that could ultimately shape the long-term fate of marital relationships (e.g.,
Huston, 2009; Huston, Caughlin, Houts, Smith, & George, 2001).
Therefore, it is important to examine how spouses’ conflict resolution styles/patterns
might change over time during the first few years of marriage (i.e., the transition patterns
over time of marital conflict resolution styles) and also the implications of such changes
for the developmental trajectories of marital relationship well-being. In addition, in
contrast to the considerable body of research concerned with Western couples’ conflict
resolution processes, we know relatively little about how non-Western couples handle
their conflicts and how these interactive processes influence their marital relationships,
even though an emerging body of research has consistently demonstrated that conflict
resolution processes and their implications for conjugal outcomes may vary system-
atically across different cultural contexts (e.g., Lee et al., 2013; Williamson et al., 2012).
Taken altogether, the current study sought to complement and extend prior research
by addressing the following questions based on three annual waves of data obtained
from 194 Chinese couples during their early years of marriage. First, utilizing the latent
transition analysis (LTA) (Collins & Lanza, 2010), we first tried to identify the
typology of couples at each wave based on the different resolution strategies they
employed when resolving marital conflicts, and each couple thus would get a mem-
bership in the identified typology at each time point and three different memberships in
4 Journal of Social and Personal Relationships XX(X)

total. Then, we also examined the patterns of changes or transitions of couples’


memberships in the identified typologies across different waves. Lastly, using the
associative latent growth curve model (associative LGCM) (Duncan, Duncan, &
Strycker, 2013), we linked the typology of couples’ conflict resolution strategies
identified at the first wave to both the initial levels of and the change rates of marital
quality and also linked the patterns of transitions of couples’ memberships in the
identified typologies across waves to the change rates of marital quality across waves
(see Figure 1 for the conceptual model).

Method
Study design and sample characteristics
The present study is based on data from a larger project named Chinese Newlyweds
Longitudinal Study (CNLS). Chinese couples in their early years of marriage were
recruited through online advertisements, community posters, and acquaintance referrals.
Eligible couples were (a) in their first marriage, (b) without child, (c) married for less
than 3 years, and (d) residing in Beijing. Recruited couples were followed up annually
across 3 years (i.e., 2011–2013). The sample size was 268, 224 (retention rate ¼
83.58%), and 202 (retention rate ¼ 75.37%) couples, respectively. Only couples who
participated in all of the three wave assessments were included in the sample of the
current study (N ¼ 194 couples). As compared to partners in couples who were not
included in the present sample on all the study variables at Wave 1, husbands in the
current study reported lower level of verbal aggression (Meanretained ¼ 1.80 and
Meanattrited ¼ 1.98, t266 ¼ 2.18, p < .05) and higher levels of marital quality
(Meanretained ¼ 41.08 and Meanattrited ¼ 38.80, t266 ¼ 2.94, p < .01) at Wave 1. No
significant differences were found for wives.
At Wave 1, the 194 couples had been married for a mean of 13.61 months (SD ¼
9.65). Husbands and wives were on average 29.46 years old (SD ¼ 2.70) and 27.93 years
old (SD ¼ 2.30), respectively. The median levels of monthly income for husbands and
wives were 7,000 RMB (SD ¼ 5,427.29; approximately U.S. $1,017 and 5,000 RMB (SD
¼ 3,791.45; approximately U.S. $727), respectively. The modal level of education is a
bachelor’s degree for husbands and a graduate degree for wives. According to the census
data at the year of data collection (Beijing Bureau of Statistics, 2011; National Bureau of
Statistics of China, 2012), participants in the present study had higher levels of income
and education than did the broader population in Beijing.

Measures
Measures used in the present study were originally developed based on samples of
Western couples. A team of graduate students majoring in family studies who are fluent
in both Chinese and English first translated measures into Mandarin, and then another
team of bilingual graduate students back-translated them into English. The investigators
also worked with the translators to revise items as needed until it was evident that the
Chinese items had meanings equivalent to the English version. All measures were also
Marital quality at wave 1(h) Marital quality at wave 2(h) Marital quality at wave 3(h)

Initial levels of Change rates of


marital quality (h) marital quality (h)

Couples’ memberships in the groups based on


Couples’ memberships in the latent
their conflict resolution style transition
profiles of conflict resolution
patterns across three waves
strategies at wave 1

Initial levels of Change rates of


marital quality (w) marital quality (w)

Marital quality at wave 1(w) Marital quality at wave 2(w) Marital quality at wave 3(w)

Figure 1. The conceptual figure. Note. h ¼ husbands; w ¼ wives.

5
6 Journal of Social and Personal Relationships XX(X)

sent out to professors with expertise in Chinese marriage studies for suggestions. We
repeated such processes until no new revision suggestions were made.

Marital quality. The 6-item unidimensional Quality Marriage Index Scale (QMI) (Norton,
1983) was used to assess couple relationship quality. We chose to use the QMI primarily
because (a) the existing studies have indicated that the QMI has good reliability and
sensitivity in assessing marital quality and identifying marital distress (Culp & Beach,
1998; Schumm et al., 1986; Xu & Burleson, 2004); (b) the QMI as a global, uni-
dimensional measurement of marital quality is less susceptible to the interpretation
problems that may arise in the omnibus measures of marital quality (e.g., Dyadic
Adjustment Scale) (Bradbury, Fincham, & Beach, 2000; Fincham & Bradbury, 1987);
and (c) research based on samples of Chinese couples/partners has suggested that the
QMI has good reliability and validity in the Chinese cultural context (e.g., Zhang, Smith,
Swisher, Fu, & Fogarty, 2011).
The first 5 items of the QMI asked partners to indicate their agreement with state-
ments such as “My relationship with my partner makes me happy” on Likert scale
ranging from 1 (very strong disagreement) to 7 (very strong agreement). Using a 10-
point scale from 1 (very unhappy) to 10 (perfectly happy), the last item of the QMI asked
partners to indicate how happy they were in their relationship when all things were
considered on a 10-point scale from 1 (very unhappy) to 10 (perfectly happy). All 7 items
were worded in a positive direction. Sum scores were calculated and used in the final
analyses. Higher scores indicated higher levels of couple relationship quality. Cron-
bach’s as in the current study were .93, .95, and .96 for husbands and .94, .96, and .97 for
wives across three waves.

Marital conflict resolution strategies. The Conflicts and Problem-Solving Scale (CPS)
(Kerig, 1996) was used to assess marital conflict resolution strategies: collaboration,
avoidance, stalemate, verbal aggression, and physical aggression. This scale is useful for
identifying a meaningful typology of marital conflict resolution strategies because the
CPS (a) includes a series of important dimensions of marital conflict resolution (Du,
Papp, & Cummings, 2004; Kurdek, 1994; Zacchilli et al., 2009), (b) assesses various
conflict resolution strategies that are less redundant with each other (Kerig, 1996), (c)
has demonstrated good structure validity in both previous research (e.g., Kerig, 1996,
1998; Mahoney et al., 1999) and in the present study (see Appendix 1 for more details),
and (d) has shown good predictive validity in studies focusing on Chinese families (e.g.,
Li, Cheung, & Cummings, 2016; Li, Putallaz, & Su, 2011).
On a 4-point Likert scale ranging from 1 (Never) to 4 (Often), partners were asked to
indicate how often they employed the specific strategies described in items when dealing
with marital conflicts during the last 12 months. Collaboration subscale involves 8 items
(e.g., “Try to reason with the other person”). Avoidance scale involves 7 items (e.g., “Try
to ignore the problem”). Stalemate subscale comprises 7 items (e.g., “Sulk, refuse to talk
and give the silent treatment”). Verbal aggression subscale involves 6 items (e.g.,
“Name-calling, cursing, insulting”). Physical aggression entails 7 items (e.g., “Push,
pull, shove, grab partner”). Mean score for each specific conflict resolution strategy was
calculated and used in final analyses. Higher scores indicated higher frequency of
Li et al. 7

employing a particular conflict resolution strategy. Cronbach’s as across three waves in


the current study were .77, .81, and .82 for husbands’ collaboration; .74, .72, and .72 for
wives’ collaboration; .73, .78, and .77 for husbands’ avoidance; .73, .73, and .75 for
wives’ avoidance; .65, .62, and .67 for husbands’ stalemate; .67, .75, and .74 for wives’
stalemate; .86, .85, and .87 for husbands’ verbal aggression; .86, .90, and .88 for wives’
verbal aggression; .84, .86, and .90 for husbands’ physical aggression; and .92, .89, and
.91 for wives’ physical aggression.

Procedures
Data were collected annually across 3 years from 2011 to 2013. The research procedures
were approved by the Institute Review Board at the home institution of the researchers
and were consistently employed across data collection waves. Both husbands and wives
were invited to the university lab to participate in this study. For couples who could not
come to the lab, research assistants collected the data by means of a home visit. First, the
study was described in general terms by the trained research assistants and the signed
informed consent form was obtained from each participating spouse. Then, husbands and
wives were asked to separately complete a series of self-report measures regarding their
demographic, individual, and relational characteristics. At the end, couples were
debriefed and were paid 100 RMB (approximately U.S. $15) for their participation.

Analytic strategies
We used Mplus 7.11 to analyze the data. LTA (Collins & Lanza, 2010) was utilized to
identify latent profiles at each time point based on spouses’ various types of conflict
resolution strategies (i.e., collaboration, avoidance, stalemate, verbal aggression, and
physical aggression) and to examine how couples’ memberships in the identified profiles
changed over time (i.e., the transition patterns over time of couples’ marital conflict
resolution strategy profiles). We used both husbands’ and wives’ scores for each conflict
resolution strategy as indicators when identifying the latent profile. As such, the iden-
tified profiles were determined by both husbands’ and wives’ characteristics with respect
to all of the indicators.
Consistent with the existing research using LTA (e.g., Collins & Lanza, 2010; Lanza,
Patrick, & Maggs, 2010; Todd & Houston, 2013), the following model fit indices were
considered in the present study to determine the optimal number of latent profiles,
including the log-likelihood value, Bayesian information criterion (BIC), Akaike
information criterion (AIC), sample size-adjusted BIC (ABIC), and entropy. Lower log-
likelihood, AIC, BIC, and ABIC values signify a better model fit. Entropy denotes the
accuracy of classification into each profile based on the indicators, with higher values
denoting higher classification accuracy, with the maximum being 1.00. We also con-
sidered some other factors (e.g., model interpretability) for each solution to determine
the optimal number of profiles.
Then, the associative LGCM (Duncan et al., 2013) was used to understand how
couples’ profiles of conflict resolution strategies and their transition patterns over time
might shape the developmental trajectories of marital quality. As depicted in Figure 1,
8 Journal of Social and Personal Relationships XX(X)

the associative LGCM is an extension of the simple LGCM (Kline, 2005). In the present
study, analyses using the associative LGCM included two stages. In the first stage, we
ran a baseline model in which the nature of changes in marital quality for husbands and
wives was examined. The baseline associative LGCM has intercepts and slopes for both
husbands and wives within the single model, and these coefficients were estimated in the
same way with the simple LGCM.
In the second stage, we added predictors (i.e., the membership of the latent profiles
identified at Wave 1 and the membership of the transition patterns of conflict resolution
profiles across different waves) into the baseline model to examine how these predictors
explained variability in both husbands’ and wives’ initial levels of (i.e., the intercepts)
and the change rates of (i.e., the slopes) marital quality. Specifically, we linked couples’
profiles of conflict resolution strategies identified at the first wave to both the initial
levels of and the change rate of marital quality across three waves and also linked the
transition patterns of couples’ conflict resolution profiles across waves to the change rate
of marital quality across three waves.
In all aforementioned analyses, a series of factors were controlled for due to their
significant correlations with marital conflict resolution or/and marital quality in the
current study (see Appendix 2 for more details) and in previous research, including
marital duration at Wave 1 (Houts et al., 2008; Umberson, Williams, Powers, Chen, &
Campbell, 2005), both partners’ ages at Wave 1 (for review, see Amato, Johnson, Booth,
& Rogers, 2003), both partners’ education degrees at Wave 1 (for review, see Larson &
Holman, 1994), both partners’ average levels of monthly income across three waves
(Conger, Rueter, & Elder, 1999), and whether partners had cohabited before marriage or
not (for review, see Jose, Leary, & Moyer, 2010). The covariates were correlated to the
predictors (i.e., the membership of the conflict resolution profiles identified at Wave 1
and the membership of transition patterns of conflict resolution profiles across different
waves) as well as the intercepts of husbands’ and wives’ marital quality. Further, the
covariates were also regressed on the slopes of husbands’ and wives’ marital quality (see
Appendix 3 for more details).

Results
Latent profiles of couples’ conflict resolution strategies at each time point
To determine the optimal solution, we examined two, three, four, and five latent profiles
solutions for our models. The details of changes in log-likelihood, AIC, BIC, ABIC, and
entropy values are displayed in Table 1. The values of log-likelihood, BIC, AIC, and
ABIC continuously decreased with the increase of the number of profiles. The entropy
scores for the three-, four-, and five-profile solutions were comparable with each other
but higher than that for the two-profile solution. Furthermore, in terms of the subsample
size per identified profile at each wave for the three-, four-, and five-profile solutions, it
is obvious that the four-profile solution was more reasonable than the other two. As such,
to achieve a balance between the accuracy of classification and the model interpretability
(e.g., the subsample size per identified profile), the four-profile solution was selected as
the optimal solution in the current study.
Li et al. 9

Table 1. Comparison of models for latent profiles of couples’ conflict resolution strategies
(N ¼ 194 couples).

Number Class size for the


of latent Log- identified profiles
profiles likelihood AIC BIC ABIC Entropy at each wave
2 3,511.850 7,133.700 7,313.432 7,139.203 .889 Wave 1: 85, 109
Wave 2: 87, 107
Wave 3: 94, 100
3 3,316.449 6,852.898 7,212.362 6,863.904 .927 Wave 1: 103, 89, 2
Wave 2: 100, 80, 14
Wave 3: 98, 82, 14
4 3,045.679 6,285.358 6,602.340 6,295.063 .921 Wave 1: 89, 26, 63, 16
Wave 2: 88, 26, 59, 21
Wave 3: 90, 23, 66, 15
5 2,883.573 6,015.147 6,420.361 6,027.554 .923 Wave 1: 85, 60, 20, 26, 3
Wave 2: 80, 60, 22, 29, 3
Wave 3: 80, 68, 14, 28, 4
Note. The bolded entries represent the fit statistics of the selected solution in the current study.

Table 2. Mean values of indicators and prevalence of identified latent profiles across different
waves (N ¼ 194 couples).

Profile 1 Profile 2 Profile 3 Profile 4


Mean values of indicators
Husbands
Collaboration 3.64 3.65 3.36 3.54
Avoidance 2.25 2.65 2.65 2.62
Stalemate 1.89 2.29 2.61 2.18
Verbal aggression 1.50 1.98 2.91 1.93
Physical aggression 1.04 1.13 2.12 1.14
Wives
Collaboration 3.69 3.59 3.61 3.47
Avoidance 2.10 2.42 2.36 2.55
Stalemate 2.20 2.79 2.73 3.05
Verbal aggression 1.58 2.47 2.55 3.04
Physical aggression 1.12 1.31 1.71 2.52
Prevalence of each identified profile (%)
Wave 1 45.9 32.5 8.2 13.4
Wave 2 45.4 30.4 10.8 13.4
Wave 3 46.4 34.0 7.7 11.9
Note. Profile 1 ¼ Cooperative Couples, Profile 2 ¼Avoidant Couples, Profile 3 ¼ Aggressive Couples, and
Profile 4 ¼ Aggressive Wife-Avoidant Husband Couples. Mean values of indicators were constrained to be
equal at all three waves.

Means of indicators (i.e. spouses’ various conflict resolution strategies) and the
prevalence of each identified latent profile at each wave are reported in Table 2. The
specific characteristics of the identified latent profiles at each wave are also depicted
10 Journal of Social and Personal Relationships XX(X)

Figure 2. Profiles of couples’ conflict resolution strategies at different waves (N ¼ 194 couples).
Note. CO ¼ collaboration, AV ¼ avoidance, ST ¼ stalemate, VA ¼ verbal aggression, PA ¼
physical aggression, h ¼ husbands, w ¼ wives.

in Figure 2. In order to assign labels to each profile, we conducted a series of analyses of


covariance (ANCOVAs) to examine whether these profiles varied in the frequencies of
each conflict resolution strategy at each wave. Significant univariate findings were
followed up by post hoc analyses with the Bonferroni correction (see Appendix 4 for
specific findings).
As compared to partners in the other three identified latent profiles, spouses classified in
the first identified latent profile employed the lowest levels of destructive strategies when
Li et al. 11

resolving marital problems and comparable levels of collaborative strategies. Husbands’


and wives’ profiles of conflict resolution strategies were similar to each other. Thus, this
profile might be labeled “Cooperative Couples”; 45.9%, 45.4%, and 46.4% of the couples
were classified into this profile at the first, second, and third wave, respectively.
Among various strategies, both husbands and wives classified in the second profile
adopted relatively higher levels of “avoidance” and “stalemate” when handling conflicts.
Thus, we labeled this profile as “Avoidant Couples”; 32.5%, 30.4%, and 34.0% of the
couples were classified into this profile at the first, second, and third wave, respectively.
Although both partners from the third profile also demonstrated relatively higher
levels of “avoidance” and “stalemate” when dealing with conflicts, it is particularly
noteworthy that both husbands and wives from this profile engaged in relatively higher
levels of both “verbal aggression” and “physical aggression.” Therefore, this profile may
be named as “Aggressive Couples”; 8.2%, 10.8%, and 7.7% of the couples were clas-
sified into this profile at the first, second, and third wave, respectively.
Among different strategies, both husbands and wives from the final profile performed
relatively higher levels of “avoidance” and “stalemate” when dealing with conflicts, but it
seems that wives from this profile engaged in relatively higher levels of both “verbal
aggression” and “physical aggression,” as compared to either their husbands or their
counterparts classified into the other profiles. As such, this profile can be labeled as
“Aggressive Wife-Avoidant Husband Couples.” Specifically, 13.4%, 13.4%, and 11.9% of
the couples were classified into this profile at the first, second, and third wave, respectively.

Transition pattern of marital conflict resolution style over time


Based on the LTA, the probabilities of each identified latent profile of conflict resolution
style at each time point varying as a function of the membership in the identified over-
time transition patterns of conflict resolution style are reported in Table 3. Some couples
were consistently classified as the “Cooperative Couples Profile” across different waves
(see the Pattern Group 1 in Table 3). This group can be labeled as the “Steadily Con-
structive Pattern Group” (n ¼ 70; 36.1% of the sample). Some couples were consistently
classified into the destructive profiles (i.e., “Avoidant Couples”, “Aggressive Couples”,
or “Aggressive Wife-Avoidant Husband Couples”) (see the Pattern Group 5 in Table 3).
This group thus can be labeled as the “Steadily Destructive Pattern Group” (n ¼ 66;
34.0% of the sample).
Some couples demonstrated a tendency over time to move from a constructive profile
to a more destructive profile (see the Pattern Group 2 in Table 3). Thus, we labeled this
group “More Constructive Pattern Group” (n ¼ 25; 12.9% of the sample). In contrast,
some couples demonstrated an over-time tendency moving from moving a constructive
profile to a more destructive profile (see the Pattern Group 4 in Table 3). This group
therefore was labeled “More Destructive Pattern Group” (n ¼ 20; 10.3% of the sample).
In terms of the remaining couples, no clear over-time transition pattern of conflict res-
olution styles could be identified. It seems that their interactive styles when handling
conflicts swing unpredictably between different patterns across different waves (see the
Pattern Group 3 in Table 3). Thus, we labeled this group as the “Unpredictable Pattern
Group” (n ¼ 13; 6.7% of the sample).
12 Journal of Social and Personal Relationships XX(X)

Table 3. Probabilities of each identified latent profile of conflict resolution style at different time
points as a function of the membership in the identified transition patterns of conflict resolution
styles over time (N ¼ 194 couples).

Probability of each profile in the identified transition patterns of


conflict resolution style over time
Identified latent
profile of Pattern Pattern Pattern Pattern Pattern
conflict Group 1 Group 2 Group 3 Group 4 Group 5
resolution style
Time at different Steadily More More Steadily
point time points Constructive Constructive Unpredictable Destructive Destructive
Wave 1 Cooperative Couples 1.00 .00 .46 .65 .00
Avoidant Couples .00 .48 .31 .35 .61
Aggressive Couples .00 .24 .08 .00 .14
Aggressive Wife- .00 .28 .15 .00 .26
Avoidant Husband
Couples
Wave 2 Cooperative Couples 1.00 .20 .23 .50 .00
Avoidant Couples .00 .48 .23 .20 .61
Aggressive Couples .00 .24 .38 .05 .14
Aggressive Wife- .00 .08 .15 .25 .26
Avoidant Husband
Couples
Wave 3 Cooperative Couples 1.00 .60 .38 .00 .00
Avoidant Couples .00 .40 .54 .45 .61
Aggressive Couples .00 .00 .08 .20 .14
Aggressive Wife- .00 .00 .00 .35 .26
Avoidant Husband
Couples
N (proportion) of couples 70 (36.1%) 25 (12.9%) 13 (6.7%) 20 (10.3%) 66 (34.0%)

Association between conflict resolution typology and marital quality


There was an adequate fit to the data for the baseline LGCM of husbands’ and wives’
marital quality, which was evidenced by the following statistics: w2 (4) ¼ 7.74, p ¼ .10,
Comparative Fit Index (CFI) ¼ .99, Tucker Lewis Index (TLI) ¼ .96, Root Mean Square
Error of Approximation (RMSEA) ¼ .07, and Standardized Root Mean Square Residual
(SRMR) ¼ .03. As reported in Table 4, the intercepts (i.e., the initial levels) of husbands’
and wives’ marital quality were at the higher end of the marital quality measure, sug-
gesting that both partners were happy with their relationship at the first wave of data
collection. However, the slopes (i.e., the rates of linear changes) of both husbands’ and
wives’ marital quality were significantly negative, suggesting that both partners’ marital
quality declined significantly over time. Specifically, husbands’ marital quality declined
at a rate of 1.04 units per year, whereas wives’ marital quality at a rate of 1.13 units per
year. Furthermore, the variance for both the intercepts and the slopes was statistically
significant for both husbands and wives. As such, it is warranted to add predictors to
account for the considerable variability in both intercepts and slopes. In addition, the
correlations among spouses’ intercepts and slopes are also reported in Table 5.
Li et al. 13

Table 4. Coefficients and variances for dyadic growth curve parameters for husbands and wives
(N ¼ 194 couples).

Parameter Coefficient Variance


Initial level
Husbands 40.87*** 12.82***
Wives 40.02*** 28.56***
Rate of change
Husbands 1.04*** 4.33y
Wives 1.13*** 9.04**

Note. yp < .10; *p < .05; **p < .01; ***p < .001.

Table 5. Correlations between intercepts and slopes for husbands and wives (N ¼ 194 couples).

1 2 3 4
1. Husband intercept 1.00
2. Husband slope .04 1.00
3. Wife intercept .22 .48* 1.00
4. Wife slope .27 .06 .37y 1.00
Note. yp < .10; *p < .05.

Given the predictors in the present study were multicategorical variables (i.e., the
membership variables), we recoded them using the indicator coding method, also known
as the dummy coding method, before adding them into the LGCM (for a review, see
Hayes & Preacher, 2014). The “Cooperative Couples Profile” was set as the reference
category for the identified latent profiles at Wave 1, and the “Steadily Constructive
Pattern Group” was set as the reference category for the identified transition patterns
across waves. Because of this coding treatment, unstandardized coefficients parameters
for the pathways from the predictors to the intercepts and the slopes of marital quality
can be interpreted as the adjusted mean differences in the ANCOVAs, and as such they
represent the expected differences between certain groups and the reference group.
There was a good fit to the data for the LGCM of husbands’ and wives’ marital quality
with the membership predictors, which was evidenced by the following statistics: w2 (42)
¼ 41.23, p ¼ .50, CFI ¼ 1.00, TLI ¼ 1.00, RMSEA ¼ .000, and SRMR ¼ .02. As pre-
sented in Table 6, significant associations were found between the identified conflict
resolution profiles at Wave 1 and the intercept of (i.e., the initial levels of) husbands’
marital quality. Specifically, husbands in the “Cooperative Couples Profile” had higher
initial levels of marital quality than did those in the “Avoidant Couples Profile” (B ¼
1.66, b ¼ .22, p < .05) and those in the “Aggressive Couples Profile” (B ¼ 4.22, b ¼
.33, p < .01) at Wave 1. No significant difference in the initial levels of marital quality
was found between husbands in the “Cooperative Couples Profile” and husbands in the
“Aggressive Wife-Avoidant Husband Couples Profile.” The transition patterns of couples’
conflict resolution profiles across waves rather than the conflict resolution profile iden-
tified at Wave 1 were significantly associated with the slopes of (i.e., the change rates of)
husbands’ marital quality. Specifically, husbands in the “More Destructive Pattern Group”
14 Journal of Social and Personal Relationships XX(X)

Table 6. Coefficients in the latent growth curve model using the indicator coding from the
memberships in the identified latent profile to predict the intercepts and slopes of marital quality
for husbands and wives (N ¼ 194 couples).

Unstandardized coefficients (standardized coefficients)

Initial levels Rates of change

Parameters Husbands Wives Husbands Wives


Initial statuses at Wave 1
(vs. Cooperative Couples)
Avoidant Couples 1.66* (.22) 2.88** (.25) .49 (.11) .37 (.05)
Aggressive Couples 4.22** (.33) 6.37*** (.32) .31 (.04) .16 (.01)
Aggressive Wife-Avoidant .74 (.07) 2.55* (.16) 25 (.04) 1.43 (.15)
Husband Couples
Transition pattern of profiles
(vs. Steadily Constructive Pattern Group)
More Constructive Pattern – – .64 (.10) .92 (.10)
Group
Unpredictable Pattern – – 1.28 (15) .17 (.01)
Group
More Destructive Pattern – – 2.27** (.33) 1.62 (.15)
Group
Steadily Destructive – – 1.27 (.29) .09 (.01)
Pattern Group
Note. *p < .05; **p < .01; **p < .001.

(B ¼ 2.27, b ¼ .33, p < .01) experienced significantly steeper declines in marital


quality over time than did those in the “Steadily Constructive Pattern Group.” For wives,
significant associations were only found between the identified latent profiles at Wave 1
and the initial levels of wives’ marital quality. Specifically, wives in the “Cooperative
Couples Profile” at Wave1 reported higher initial levels of marital quality than did those in
the other three profiles (i.e., the “Avoidant Couples Profile” [B ¼ 2.88, b ¼ .25, p <
.01]; the “Aggressive Couples Profile” [B ¼ 6.37, b ¼ .32, p < .001]; and the
“Aggressive Wife-Avoidant Husband Couples Profile” [B ¼ 2.55, b ¼ .16, p < .05]).
No significant association was found between the identified latent profiles at Wave 1 and
the change rates of wives’ marital quality or between the transition patterns of couples’
conflict resolution styles across waves and the change rates of wives’ marital quality.
In addition, considering the possibility that marital quality also might predict changes in
conflict resolution styles (e.g., Fincham, Beach, & Davila, 2004, 2007), we also conducted
an additional set of analyses to test the potential reciprocal associations between marital
quality and marital conflict resolution profiles. Results, however, suggested unidirectional
association from conflict resolution to marital quality (see Appendix 5 for more details).

Discussion
The current study not only adds to an emerging (yet still quite limited) body of research
focusing on marital conflict resolution processes among non-Western couples but also
Li et al. 15

extends prior work on this topic in several important ways. First, guided by a holistic
perspective and utilizing a person-centered approach, the present study revealed the
understudied variability inherent within Chinese couples’ conflict resolution processes
and also demonstrated how various specific conflict resolution strategies might operate
in conjunction with each other to shape the developmental trajectories of marital quality.
Second, based on three annual waves of data, this study approached marital conflict
resolution styles from a dynamic rather than static perspective. That is, using the LTA,
we examined how Chinese couples’ marital conflict resolution styles might change over
time. Lastly, couples in the present study were all in their very first few years of mar-
riage. The homogeneous nature of marital duration and the generally higher levels of
relationship quality in this sample not only could help us detect any important effects that
otherwise might have been masked by differences associated with relationship length but
also could allow us to identify those factors predictive of changes in marital well-being.
Furthermore, considering the transitional, stressful nature of the newlywed stage, our
findings in the current study may yield important insights for the development of early
marital prevention and intervention programs.

Variability inherent within Chinese couples’ marital conflict resolution styles


There are prevailing stereotypes regarding Chinese marital communication styles in both
the research field and the mass media in Western societies; that is, the interactive pro-
cesses of Chinese couples have been historically viewed as inexpressive and introverted.
Findings of the current study challenged such stereotypes by identifying various
meaningful profiles of conflict resolution strategies: Cooperative Profile, Avoidant
Profile, Aggressive Profile, and Aggressive Wife-Avoidant Husband Profile.
The Cooperative Profile was characterized by higher levels of collaboration and also
lower levels of destructive strategies such as avoidance, aggression, and stalemate. It
seems that couples classified in this group were emotionally undemonstrative but still
problem-focused and open to discussion of disagreements when handling marital con-
flicts. To some extent, such interactive patterns adhere to the interpersonal communi-
cation rules endorsed by Chinese traditional culture that when conflicts arise, individuals
should try their best to avoid intense emotional expressions and direct, fierce conflicts
but should peacefully settle the problems so as to maintain interpersonal harmony
whenever it is possible (e.g., Butler, Lee, & Gross 2007; Matsumoto et al., 2008).
The most defining characteristic of the Aggressive Profile (as compared to the other
three profiles) was that both husbands and wives in the couples classified into this group
engaged in relatively higher levels of aggressive behaviors (especially verbal aggression)
when dealing with marital conflicts. As such, it seems that the conflict resolution processes
for these couples were very confrontational and emotionally intense. Rather than minimize
or avoid conflicts, partners in these couples tend to handle their disagreements in more
direct and even coercive, hostile ways. Such styles are quite similar to those of the
“volatile” couples identified by Gottman and colleagues (e.g., Gottman, 1994; Gottman &
Levenson, 1992) in terms of their explicit and intense expressions of negativity. In addition,
based on observational data obtained from Chinese couples, Cao et al. (2015) identified a
group of couples whose interactive processes were featured by high levels of destructive
16 Journal of Social and Personal Relationships XX(X)

behaviors such as interrogation, hostility, and dominance, which was named “Emotionally
Quarrelling Group.” It seems that couples classified in the Aggressive Profile in the present
study also dealt with conflicts via emotionally quarrelling and arguing with each other.
As to the Aggressive Wife-Avoidant Husband Profile, it was distinctive from the
other profiles in the asymmetric engagements in aggressive behaviors between hus-
bands and wives. It seems that wives in couples classified in this profile were pretty
“quarrelsome” as they demonstrated much more verbal and physical aggression than
did their husbands when dealing with conflicts, especially physical aggression. Such
interactive styles remind us of a demand-withdraw pattern which involves one partner
making demands and the other partner withdrawing from the interaction, which has
been found across various cultural contexts in prior research, including the Chinese
cultural context (e.g., Christensen, Eldridge, Catta-Preta, Lim, & Santagata, 2006). In
addition, from a social structural perspective (e.g., Sagrestano, Heavey, & Christensen,
2006), the difference between husbands and wives in their aggressive behaviors also
may reflect the gender power structure in Chinese marriage. Historically, Chinese
culture has been long characterized by patriarchal traditions endorsing that the couple
relationship is a vertical one in which wives should subordinate to their husbands
(Pimentel, 2000). Research based on samples of Western couples has suggested that
partners with less power in their close relationships may use aggression as a coercive
tactic to exert influences, achieve desired changes, and redress the power imbalances
(e.g., Babcock, Waltz, Jacobson, & Gottman, 1993; Overall, Hammond, McNulty, &
Finkel, 2016). This may provide explanations for why wives classified in this profile
engaged in more aggressive behaviors than did husbands.
The unique features of the Avoidant Profile were difficult to identify at the first sight
without carefully comparing it with the other three profiles. As compared to couples in
the Cooperative Profile, couples in the Avoidant Profile demonstrated higher levels of
avoidance and stalemate. Although couples in the Avoidant Profile also demonstrated
some aggressive behaviors, it seems that such aggressions did not have a pattern as clear
or meaningful as those in the Aggressive Profile or the Aggressive Wife-Avoidant
Husband Profile. Taken altogether, it seems that couples in this profile were just at
the “median point” of a continuum from “the very cooperative” to “the very destructive”
when handling marital conflicts or they were just at the very “crossroads” of commu-
nication style transformation/transition.

Transition patterns of conflict resolution styles and marital quality trajectories


A substantial body of research has assessed couples’ conflict resolution strategies at a
single time point and then examined their associations with both the concurrent levels of
and the subsequent changes in marital well-being. In contrast, much less is known about
whether and how couples’ conflict resolution styles might change over time and the
associations between such changes and the developmental trajectories of conjugal well-
being (Lavner, Karney, & Bradbury, 2016; Markman, Rhoades, Stanley, Ragan, &
Whitton, 2010). Furthermore, couples in the early years of marriage are in a period of
flux and their interactive patterns are particularly open to changes and influences. Thus,
approaching newlywed couples’ conflict resolution styles from a dyadic perspective
Li et al. 17

seems necessary and important. By tracking Chinese couples’ conflict resolution styles
and their marital quality across three annual waves, we were able to address such
questions in the present study. Specifically, we identified five groups of couples based on
the transition patterns of their conflict resolution style across waves: Steadily Con-
structive Pattern Group, More Constructive Pattern Group, Unpredictable Pattern
Group, More Destructive Pattern Group, and Steadily Destructive Pattern Group.
Clearly, such findings provide evidence supporting the fluidity of couple conflict reso-
lution styles over time and also the heterogeneity within that fluidity.
Moreover, we linked couples’ initial conflict resolution styles and also the transition
patterns of such styles across waves with marital quality trajectories. Specifically,
couples’ initial conflict resolution styles were associated with their initial levels of
marital quality (i.e., in general, spouses classified in the more constructive profiles
reported higher concurrent levels of marital quality than did those classified in the more
deconstructive profiles) rather than the change rates of marital quality for both husbands
and wives, whereas couples’ transition patterns of conflict resolution styles across waves
were associated with the change rates of marital quality for husbands rather than wives
(i.e., husbands classified in the “More Destructive Pattern Group” experienced steeper
declines in marital quality over time than did those classified in the “Steadily Con-
structive Pattern Group”). To some extent, such findings remind us of the two models of
marital distress proposed by Huston and colleagues (Huston, 2009; Huston et al., 2001).
Accordingly, it seems that we found little evidence supporting the enduring dynamics
model in the current study as our analyses suggested that couples’ initial conflict reso-
lution styles were associated with the change rates of marital quality for neither husbands
nor wives. In other words, our findings suggested that the seeds of the long-term fate of
conjugal relationship may not be simply sown by the couple dynamics demonstrated
during the very first few years of marriage. However, some evidence was found for the
emergent distress model, at least for husbands. That is, couples’ transition patterns of
conflict resolution styles across waves were associated with the change rates of marital
quality for husbands, and husbands classified in the “More Destructive Pattern Group”
experienced steeper declines in marital quality over time than did those classified in the
“Steadily Constructive Pattern Group.” Such findings seem to be consistent with the core
proposition in the emergent distress model that marital distress develops as negativity
between partners increase and escalate over time and ultimately leads to the breakdown
of the marital union.
In particular, it is quite interesting to find that couples’ transition patterns of conflict
resolution styles across waves were associated with the change rates of marital quality
for husbands rather than wives. As the first study on the association between the tran-
sition patterns of marital conflict resolution styles and the developmental trajectories of
marital satisfaction among Chinese couples, our findings await replications and sys-
tematic examinations for more accurate explanations. Future research will benefit from
investigating how gender and related factors may shape the association between couples’
transition patterns of conflict resolution styles over time and the developmental trajec-
tories of marital well-being. However, we speculate that the secret of this gender dif-
ference may lie in husbands and wives’ different adaptive processes during the
transitional first few years of marriage. Specifically, the disillusionment model of close
18 Journal of Social and Personal Relationships XX(X)

relationship suggests that newlyweds tend to view each other in the best possible terms at
the very beginning of the marriage but will gradually experience a disillusionment
process (i.e., a decline in positive perception and an increase in negative perception
toward the partner) with the development of the relationship (Huston et al., 2001).
Some very interesting gender differences have been found in the idealization of
close partners (for a review, see Niehuis, Lee, Reifman, Swenson, & Hunsaker, 2011).
In general, women idealize their close partners more than do men. Furthermore, men
generally idealize their partners less as they get more involved over the course of the
relationship, whereas women’ idealization of their partners often may not decrease
with their increasing levels of relationship involvement. As such, the lack of significant
association between the overtime development of conflict resolution profiles and the
overtime trajectories of marital quality among wives in the current study might be
because during the very first few years of marriage wives might keep idealizing their
partners and interpreting conflict resolution processes in a much more positive way
than did their husbands, and thus their perceptions of marital relationship were less
susceptible to the changes in the marital conflict resolution styles than were their
husbands’.
Lastly, we also found that couples who handled conflicts in collaborative or coop-
erative ways tended to have higher initial levels of marital quality, whereas couples who
dealt with conflicts in more destructive ways tended to have lower initial levels of
marital quality. Such findings are consistent with a substantial body of previous research
consistently demonstrating that positive communication behaviors benefit marital rela-
tionships, whereas negative communication behaviors hurt marital relationships (Driver
et al., 2012; Fincham, 2004; Gottman & Notarius, 2000).

Limitations and future directions for future research


Despite the limitations of the present study and possible avenues for future inquiries
pointed out earlier, the following ones are also noteworthy. First, the current study is
based on a sample of Chinese young couples who were in their early years of marriage
and living in economically developed urban areas. As noted already, according to the
census data from the year of data collection (Beijing Bureau of Statistics, 2011; National
Bureau of Statistics of China, 2012), partners in our sample had relatively higher levels
of socioeconomic status than did the broader population in the recruitment areas. Thus,
our findings may not apply to Chinese couples who are in other marital stages, living in
underdeveloped rural areas, and have lower levels of socioeconomic status. Thus,
investigations with larger and more diverse samples are warranted.
Second, data in our study were collected with self-report survey methods. Future research
will benefit from employing multiple methods (e.g., daily diary and observation) when
assessing conflict resolution behaviors and marital satisfaction to minimizing potential bias
associated shared method variance. In particular, daily diary is appropriate for studying
marital experiences on a daily basis (Bolger, Davis, & Rafaeli, 2003), which makes retro-
spective biases less likely, allows for the examination of daily fluctuations around the mean
levels of marital conflicts and marital satisfaction, and helps to reflect a full assessment of
the average of conflict and satisfaction experiences over a period of time.
Li et al. 19

Third, our selection analysis showed that couples who were excluded from the present study
were somewhat systematically different from those who were included in the current sample.
Specifically, as compared to their counterparts in the included couples, husbands in those
excluded couples were more verbally aggressive when resolving marital conflicts and reported
lower marital quality at Wave 1. Thus, couples (at least for husbands) retained in the present
sample might represent a group with relatively lower levels of marital risk. Fourth, in the current
study, we demonstrated how Chinese couples’ conflict resolution patterns might change
during the early years of marriage and how such changes were related to the developmental
trajectories of marital quality. However, little is known about what factors might contribute to
the transition patterns of couple conflict resolution styles over time (i.e., identifying the ante-
cedents of the transition patterns), which should be the next steps of research in this field.
Fifth, although is well on the collectivist side of the individualism-collectivism scale,
there should be considerable within-culture variation in spouses’ endorsement of Chi-
nese traditional marital values and beliefs. Such variability might play critical roles in
shaping spouses’ interactive behaviors when resolving conflicts by influencing how they
make meanings of their own and their partners’ behaviors. We did not assess such
Chinese cultural factors in the current study, but future research will benefit from
examining if Chinese couples’ communication processes and their associations with
marital well-being vary as functions of those variables.

Authors contribution
Xiaomin Li and Hongjian Cao contributed equally to the preparation of this article.

Declaration of Conflicting Interests


The author(s) declared no potential conflict of interest with respect to the research, authorship,
and/or publication of this article.

Funding
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/
or publication of this article: This research was supported by a grant from the National Natural
Science Foundation of China (no 31571157) to Xiaoyi Fang.

Supplementary Material
The online appendix are available online.

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Appendix 1
Confirmatory factor analysis for Conflicts and Problem-Solving Scale
Both partners’ confirmatory factor analysis models had acceptable model fit: for hus-
bands, w2 (471) ¼ 789.57, CFI ¼ .92, TLI ¼ .90, RMSEA ¼ .05; and for wives, w2 (521)
¼ 877.70, CFI ¼ .91, TLI ¼ .90, RMSEA ¼ .05. As presented in Table 1A in the current
appendix document, standardized factor loadings of each item in each subscale sug-
gested a reliable factor structure. Specifically, the loadings for the items in husbands’
collaboration subscale had a mean of .56 and ranged from .32 to .81 (ps < .001); the
loadings for the items in husbands’ avoidance subscale had a mean of .45 and ranged
from .26 to .78 (ps < .001); the loadings for the items in husbands’ stalemate had a mean
of .41 and ranged from .15 to .62 (ps < .05); the loadings for items in husbands’ verbal
aggression subscale had a mean of .68 and ranged from .62 to .72 (ps < .001); and the
loadings for the items in husbands’ physical aggression subscale had a mean of .64 and
ranged from .46 to .83 (ps < .001).
Similar patterns were also found for wives. The loadings for the items in wives’ colla-
boration subscale had a mean of .49 and ranged from .16 to .70 (ps < .05); the loadings for the
items in wives’ avoidance subscale had a mean of .48 and ranged from .28 to .78 (ps < .001);
the loadings for the items in wives’ stalemate subscale had a mean of .40 and ranged from .31
to .64 (ps < .001); the loadings for the items in wives’ verbal aggression subscale had a mean
of .69 and ranged from .57 to .76 (ps < .001); and the loadings for the items in wives’ physical
aggression subscale had a mean of .77 and ranged from .61 to .90 (ps < .001).
Li et al. 25

Table 1A. Standardized factor loadings, standardized errors, and p values of all items on each
subscale of the CPS (N ¼ 268 couples at Wave 1).

Husbands Wives

b SE p b SE p
Collaboration subscale
Talk it out with the other .60 .05 .000 .70 .05 .000
Express thoughts and feelings openly .62 .05 .000 .49 .06 .000
Listen to the other’s point of view .53 .05 .000 .73 .05 .000
Try to understand what the other is really feeling .59 .05 .000 .49 .07 .000
Try to reason with the other .60 .05 .000 .58 .06 .000
Try to find solution that meets both needs equally .81 .04 .000 .45 .06 .000
Compromise, meet the other halfway .41 .06 .000 .16 .07 .020
Try to smooth things over .32 .06 .000 .30 .07 .000
Avoidance subscale
Give in to the other’s viewpoint to escape argument .41 .06 .000 .59 .06 .000
Placate, humor, indulge the other .33 .06 .000 .38 .07 .000
Try to ignore problem, avoid talking about it .78 .07 .000 .78 .07 .000
Change the subject .47 .09 .000 .59 .07 .000
Clam up, hold in feelings .52 .06 .000 .46 .07 .000
Leave the room .41 .08 .000 .28 .07 .000
Leave the house .26 .07 .000 .28 .07 .000
Stalemate subscale
Cry .15 .07 .029 .31 .06 .000
Sulk, refuse to talk, and give the “silent treatment” .36 .06 .000 .21 .06 .000
Complain, bicker without really getting anywhere .62 .05 .000 .61 .04 .000
Insist on own point of view .41 .06 .000 .28 .06 .000
Try to convince the other of own way of thinking .28 .06 .000 .31 .06 .000
Threaten to end relationship .65 .05 .000 .64 .04 .000
Withdraw love or affection .42 .06 .000 .47 .05 .000
Verbal aggression subscale
Raise voice, yell, shout .63 .04 .000 .63 .04 .000
Interrupt/don’t listen to the other .62 .05 .000 .57 .05 .000
Become sarcastic .68 .04 .000 .76 .03 .000
Make accusations .71 .04 .000 .70 .04 .000
Name-calling, cursing, insulting .70 .04 .000 .75 .03 .000
Say or do something to hurt the other’s feelings .72 .04 .000 .74 .03 .000
Physical aggression subscale
Throw objects, slam doors, break things .46 .06 .000 .68 .04 .000
Throw somethings .59 .05 .000 .81 .02 .000
Threat physical harm to other .83 .03 .000 .90 .02 .000
Push, pull, shove, grab partner .77 .03 .000 .87 .02 .000
Slap partner .61 .04 .000 .61 .04 .000
Strike, kick, bite partner .69 .04 .000 .83 .02 .000
Beat up partner .52 .05 .000 .69 .04 .000

Note. CPS ¼ Conflicts and Problem-Solving Scale.


26 Journal of Social and Personal Relationships XX(X)

Appendix 2
Correlations
As presented in the Table 2A in the current appendix document, significant associations
emerged in the zero-order correlations between covariates and key variables (i.e., both
partners’ marital quality and conflict resolution strategies).

Table 2A. The zero-order correlations between covariates and key variables (N ¼ 194 couples).

Covariates

RELL H1AGE W1AGE H1EDU W1EEDU HES WES COH


Marital quality
Husbands’
At Wave 1 .17* .06 .14 .00 .08 .06 .01 .04
At Wave 2 .13 .13 .04 .02 .14 .03 .05 .18*
At Wave 3 .15* .14* .00 .15* .29** .02 .10 .01
Wives’
At Wave 1 .17* .13 .23** .13 .04 .01 .04 .00
At Wave 2 .14 .12 .12 .08 .12 .06 .00 .01
At Wave 3 .28** .11 .07 .01 .25** .07 .01 .05
Collaboration
Husbands’
At Wave 1 .11 .02 .07 .20** .04 .02 .07 .12
At Wave 2 .06 .04 .16* .10 .02 .00 .02 .20**
At Wave 3 .12 .04 .14 .16* .13 .04 .00 .15*
Wives’
At Wave 1 .13 .12 .02 .12 .21** .05 .08 .02
At Wave 2 .09 .04 .21** .13 .06 .14* .18* .10
At Wave 3 .07 .10 .02 .08 .01 .09 .06 .07
Avoidance
Husbands’
At Wave 1 .08 .07 .00 .07 .07 .01 .03 .11
At Wave 2 .07 .03 .02 .11 .08 .03 .05 .17*
At Wave 3 .07 .00 .08 .01 .04 .02 .02 .17*
Wives’
At Wave 1 .12 .06 .02 .07 .11 .07 .02 .06
At Wave 2 .11 .16* .07 .02 .02 .01 .04 .08
At Wave 3 .15* .11 .07 .08 .01 .05 .05 .07
Stalemate
Husbands’
At Wave 1 .08 .02 .08 .02 .02 .06 .02 .09
At Wave 2 .06 .07 .04 .16* .03 .00 .05 .16*
At Wave 3 .04 .03 .00 .01 .15* .02 .00 .14*
Wives’
At Wave 1 .10 .02 .06 .10 .06 .12 .02 .06
At Wave 2 .07 .07 .13 .04 .02 .03 .07 .19**
At Wave 3 .05 .01 .06 .04 .08 .08 .01 .16*

(continued)
Li et al. 27

Table 2A. (continued)


Covariates

RELL H1AGE W1AGE H1EDU W1EEDU HES WES COH


Verbal aggression
Husbands’
At Wave 1 .07 .02 .06 .03 .04 .11 .08 .11
At Wave 2 .04 .01 .06 .01 .01 .01 .09 .19**
At Wave 3 .00 .08 .04 .04 .11 .02 .05 .11
Wives’
At Wave 1 .02 .04 .00 .11 .08 .08 .04 .08
At Wave 2 .01 .03 .11 .02 .04 .01 .06 .16*
At Wave 3 .01 .06 .08 .05 .09 .07 .03 .08
Physical aggression
Husbands’
At Wave 1 .12 .06 .16* .08 .04 .14 .07 .01
At Wave 2 .00 .03 .06 .01 .08 .08 .02 .00
At Wave 3 .00 .13 .01 .16* .17* .16* .06 .04
Wives’
At Wave 1 .04 .04 .01 .08 .01 .10 .04 .06
At Wave 2 .00 .04 .08 .09 .02 .03 .05 .01
At Wave 3 .01 .04 .05 .05 .02 .04 .06 .05
Note. RELL ¼ marital duration at Wave 1, H1AGE ¼ husbands’ age at Wave 1, W1AGE ¼ wives’ age at Wave
1, H1EDU ¼ husbands’ education at Wave 1, W1EDU ¼ wives’ education at Wave 1, HES ¼ husbands’
monthly income across three waves, WES ¼ wives’ monthly income across three waves, COH ¼ whether
partners cohabited before marriage or not.
*p < .05; **p < .01.

Appendix 3
Treatment of covariates
Procedures for the treatment of covariates in the current analyses have been presented in
Figures 3A and 3B in the current appendix document.
In Figure 3A (for the main analyses), the covariates were correlated to the pre-
dictors (i.e., the membership of the conflict resolution profiles identified at Wave 1
and the membership of transition patterns of conflict resolution profiles across
different waves) as well as the intercept of husbands’ and wives’ marital quality.
Further, the covariates were also regressed on the slope of husbands’ and wives’
marital quality. In Figure 3B (for the additional analyses), the covariates were
correlated to marital quality at Wave 1 and Wave 2 as well as the membership of
conflict resolution profiles identified at Wave 1 and Wave 2. Moreover, the covari-
ates were also regressed on marital quality at Wave 3 and the membership of
conflict resolution profiles identified at Wave 3.
28
Marital quality at wave 1(h) Marital quality at wave 2(h) Marital quality at wave 3(h)

Initial levels of Change rates of


marital quality (h) marital quality (h)

Couples’ memberships in the latent


statuses of conflict resolution Covariates:
strategies at wave 1 Marital duration at wave 1
Premarital cohabitation
Husbands’ and wives’ age at wave 1
Husbands’ and wives’ education at wave1
The overtime changes/transitions of Husbands’ and wives’ average income across three waves
couples’ memberships in the identified
statuses across three waves

Initial levels of Change rates of


marital quality (w) marital quality (w)

Marital quality at wave 1(w) Marital quality at wave 2(w) Marital quality at wave 3(w)

Figure 3A. Treatment of covariates in the conceptual model (for the main analyses).
Couples’ memberships in the latent Couples’ memberships in the latent Couples’ memberships in the latent
statuses of conflict resolution statuses of conflict resolution statuses of conflict resolution
strategies at wave 1 strategies at wave 2 strategies at wave 3

Covariates:
Marital duration at wave 1
Premarital cohabitation
Husbands’and wives’ age at wave 1
Husbands’and wives’ education at wave1
Husbands’and wives’ average income across three waves

Marital Quality at wave 1 Marital Quality at wave 2 Marital Quality at wave 3


(Husbands or Wives) (Husbands or Wives) (Husbands or Wives)

Figure 3B. Treatment of covariates in the cross-lagged analysis (for the additional analyses).

29
30 Journal of Social and Personal Relationships XX(X)

Appendix 4
Analyses of covariance
One-way analysis of variance with covariates (i.e., marital duration at Wave 1, both partners’
ages at Wave 1, both partners’ education degrees at Wave 1, and both partners’ average levels of
monthly income across three waves, and whether cohabited before marriage or not) was con-
ducted to examine whether these profiles varied in the frequencies of each conflict resolution
strategy across three waves. Except for husbands’ “collaboration” at Wave 3, significant
between-group differences are found for all conflict resolution strategies across all waves. A
series of post hoc analyses with the Bonferroni correction were conducted to detect significant
differences among different profiles identified at each wave for each conflict resolution strategy.
Results for pairwise comparisons are reported in Table 4A in the current appendix document.

Table 4A. Post hoc analysis of significant univariate findings on conflict resolution strategies
across Wave 1 to Wave 3 (N ¼ 194 couples).

Wave 1 Wave 2 Wave 3

Husbands
Collaboration C1>C3; C1>C3; Insignificant univariate
C2>C3. C2>C3; finding
Avoidance C1<C2, C1<C4; C1<C2, C1<C4; C1<C2, C1<C3, C1<C4;
Stalemate C1<C2, C1<C3, C1<C2, C1<C3; C1<C2, C1<C3, C1<C4;
C1<C4; C2<C3, C2>C4; C2<C3;
C2<C3; C3>C4. C3>C4.
C3>C4.
Verbal C1<C2, C1<C3, C1<C2, C1<C3, C1<C2, C1<C3, C1<C4;
aggression C1<C4; C1>C4; C2<C3;
C2<C3; C2<C3, C2>C4; C3>C4.
C3>C4. C3>C4.
Physical C1<C3, C1<C2, C1<C2, C1<C3, C1<C2, C1<C3;
aggression C1<C4; C1<C4; C2<C3;
C2<C3; C2<C3; C3>C4.
C3>C4. C3>C4.
Wives
Collaboration C1>C4; C1>C4. C1>C3.
C3>C4.
Avoidance C1<C2, C1<C4; C1<C2, C1<C3, C1<C2, C1<C4;
C1<C4. C3<C4.
Stalemate C1<C2, C1<C3, C1<C2, C1<C3, C1<C2, C1<C3, C1<C4;
C1<C4; C1<C4. C2<C4;
C2<C4; C3<C4.
C3<C4.
Verbal C1<C2, C1<C3, C1<C2, C1<C3, C1<C2, C1<C3, C1<C4;
aggression C1<C4; C1<C4; C2<C4;
C2<C4; C2<C4; C3<C4.
C3<C4. C3<C4.

(continued)
Li et al. 31

Table 4A. (continued)


Wave 1 Wave 2 Wave 3

Physical C1<C2, C1<C3, C1<C2, C1<C3, C1<C2, C1<C3, C1<C4;


aggression C1<C4; C1<C4; C2<C3, C2<C4;
C2<C3, C2<C4; C2<C3, C2<C4; C3<C4.
C3<C4. C3<C4.
Note. C1 ¼ Cooperative Couples, C2 ¼ Avoidant Couples, C3 ¼ Aggressive Couples, C4 ¼ Aggressive Wife-
Avoidant Husband Couples. Only significant results are reported.

Appendix 5
Marital quality and conflict resolution
As presented in Figure 5A in the current appendix document, we examined how the
initial levels (i.e., intercept) as well as changing rates (i.e., slope) of marital quality could
explain conflict resolution profiles at Wave 1 and the transition patterns of conflict
resolution profiles across different waves. Latent profiles at Wave 1 and transition
patterns of conflict resolution profiles were recoded using dummy coding method. Spe-
cifically, the “Cooperative Couples Profile” was set as the reference category for the
identified latent profiles at Wave 1, and the “Steadily Constructive Pattern Group” was
set as the reference category for the identified transition patterns across waves. This
model did not converge.
We then utilized a three-wave cross-lagged panel model to examine the reciprocal
associations between conflict resolution profile and marital quality (see Figure 5B in the
current appendix document for the conceptual model). The dummy coding method was
also utilized to recode the memberships in conflict resolution profiles across all three
waves, and the “Cooperative Couples Profile” was set as the reference category. Both
partners’ model fit well: for husbands, w2 (14) ¼ 25.47, p ¼ .03, CFI ¼ .99, TLI ¼ .90,
RMSEA ¼ .07, SRMR ¼ .01; for wives, w2 (15) ¼ 27.08, p ¼ .03, CFI ¼ .99, TLI ¼ .90,
RMSEA ¼ .06, SRMR ¼ .01.
Results for cross-lagged panel analysis are presented in Table 5A in the current
appendix document. Conflict resolution profile at Wave 1 and Wave 2 predicted
husbands and wives’ marital quality at Wave 2 and Wave 3, respectively. Specif-
ically, compared to partners from the “Cooperative Couples Profile” at Wave 1,
partners from the “Avoidant Couples Profile” at Wave 1 reported lower levels of
marital quality at Wave 2. Similarly, compared to partners from the “Cooperative
Couples Profile” at Wave 2, partners from the “Avoidant Couples Profile” and
“Aggressive Wife-Avoidant Husband Couples Profile” at Wave 2 reported lower
levels of marital quality at Wave 3. Additionally, compared to husbands from
“Cooperative Couples Profile” at Wave 2, husbands from “Aggressive Couples
Profile” at Wave 2 reported lower levels of marital quality at Wave 3. However,
neither husbands’ nor wives’ marital quality could predict couples’ conflict resolu-
tion profiles. Therefore, the present study suggested a unidirectional association
from conflict resolution profiles to marital quality.
32 Journal of Social and Personal Relationships XX(X)

Table 5A. Unstandardized coefficients of cross-lagged paths for conflict resolution profiles and
marital quality (N ¼ 194 couples).

Conflict resolution profiles to marital Marital quality to conflict resolution


quality (vs. Cooperative Couples) profiles (vs. Cooperative Couples)

Aggressive Aggressive
Wife-Avoidant Wife-Avoidant
Avoidant Aggressive Husband Avoidant Aggressive Husband
Couples Couples Couples Couples Couples Couples
Conflict resolution profiles and husbands’ marital quality
Wave 1 to Wave 2 3.40** 3.04 1.21 .00 .00 .00
Wave 2 to Wave 3 1.45 4.74*** 3.40** .00 .00 .00
Conflict resolution profiles and wives’ marital quality
Wave 1 to Wave 2 1.74* 2.80 1.77 .00 .00 .00
Wave 2 to Wave 3 1.58 2.45 4.46** .00 .01 .00
**p < .01; ***p < .001.
Marital quality at wave 1(h) Marital quality at wave 2(h) Marital quality at wave 3(h)

Initial levels of Change rates of


marital quality (h) marital quality (h)

Couples’ memberships in the groups


Couples’ memberships in the latent based on their conflict resolution style
statuses of conflict resolution transition patterns across three waves
strategies at wave 1

Initial levels of Change rates of


marital quality (w) marital quality (w)

Marital quality at wave 1(w) Marital quality at wave 2(w) Marital quality at wave 3(w)

Figure 5A. The conceptual model to test the effects of marital quality on changes in marital conflict resolution profiles. Note. Covariates are marital
duration at Wave 1, both partners’ ages at Wave 1, both partners’ education degrees at Wave 1, both partners’ average levels of monthly income
across three waves, and whether cohabited before marriage or not.

33
34
Couples’ memberships in the latent profiles Couples’ memberships in the latent profiles Couples’ memberships in the latent profiles
of conflict resolution strategies at wave 1 of conflict resolution strategies at wave 2 of conflict resolution strategies at wave 3

Marital quality at wave 1 Marital quality at wave 2 Marital quality at wave 3


(Husbands or Wives) (Husbands or Wives) (Husbands or Wives)

Figure 5B. The conceptual model for the reciprocal relationships between conflict resolution profiles and marital quality. Note. Covariates are
marital duration at Wave 1, both partners’ ages at Wave 1, both partners’ education degrees at Wave 1, both partners’ average levels of monthly
income across three waves, and whether cohabited before marriage or not.