Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format



Master of Science




Dozois, David J. A.


The beliefs one holds about their romantic partner are important predictors of relationship outcomes, but the processes underlying these associations are unclear. Since communication patterns have been proposed as a potential mechanism, the current study investigated the link between partner-schema structures (PSS) and observable behaviours between couples. Couples (N = 116 dyads) participated in videorecorded conflict discussions, which were later coded by trained observers. Main analyses using the Actor-Partner Interdependence Model demonstrated that more tightly interconnected positive PSS were associated with less hostile behaviours and more constructive problem discussion. Novel dyadic effects also emerged, whereby positive PSS were associated with not only one’s own, but one’s partner’s behaviours. Furthermore, exploratory mediation analyses revealed that hostile behaviours partially explained the association between positive PSS and relationship quality. Ultimately, understanding the complex processes involved in couples’ interactions has important implications for future research on relationship well-being and may help inform clinical interventions.

Summary for Lay Audience

Considering the large role romantic relationships play in our lives, it is important to understand what fosters healthy relationships. One thing that influences how satisfied people are in their relationships is the beliefs they hold about their romantic partner. For example, whether people view their significant other as warm and loving or cold and distant. Moreover, previous research has shown that the way people organize information about their partner in their minds has consequences for relationship health. However, it is not yet known how beliefs about one’s partner influence relationship satisfaction and other outcomes. Therefore, this study looked at communication between partners as a potential explanatory variable.

A total of 116 couples took part in this study, which involved being videorecorded while discussing an area of conflict in their relationship. The behaviours displayed by each member of the couple were later rated by trained observers. Specifically, observers categorized behaviours as hostile, neutral, or positive based on an objective rating system. Our results showed that people with more consolidated positive beliefs about their partner had better communication styles (i.e., less hostile and more neutral behaviours). We also discovered that people’s beliefs about their partner indirectly influenced their partner’s behaviours during the conflict discussion. Furthermore, preliminary analyses revealed that the reduction in hostile behaviours might help explain why individuals with more positive beliefs about their partner also had better relationship quality.

This study was the first to investigate the how people’s beliefs about their partners impact communication using observer ratings of behaviours. It was important that we used objective observers because people might not always be able to accurately judge their own behaviour, especially in the context of conflict. The results of this study might help people understand why they or their partner behave in certain ways and provide useful information for couples’ therapists. Our findings suggest that promoting positive beliefs about one’s partner may be particularly beneficial for reducing conflict and improving relationship quality. Future research should continue to investigate the complex processes underlying interactions between partners and how this information can be applied by couples hoping to improve their relationships.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Available for download on Saturday, June 21, 2025

Included in

Psychology Commons