Master of Science
Dozois, David J. A.
Romantic relationship distress and depression are mutually reinforcing phenomena with common vulnerability factors. For instance, negative ‘schemas’ (i.e., cognitive representations) held for oneself and for one’s partner are established vulnerability factors of both relationship discord and depression. Negative schemas are defined by a structure of tightly interconnected negative content and loosely interconnected positive content. The current study aimed to investigate the effects of self- and partner- schema structures on relationship quality and depression in 150 romantic dyads. A multilevel modeling approach was used, following guidelines of the Actor-Partner Interdependence Model, to account for interdependence and allow for a novel examination of ‘partner effects.’ Results suggested that a loosely interconnected positive partner-schema structure was associated with actor’s and partner’s lower perceived relationship quality, and a tightly interconnected negative self-schema structure was associated with actor’s higher depression severity. Partner-schema structure may be a useful construct to integrate into existing couple therapy protocols.
Summary for Lay Audience
Romantic relationship distress and depression often co-occur, and one often precedes the other. A large body of research suggests that the way we organize information about ourselves (for example, having a well-organized negative belief system and a poorly organized positive belief system about oneself) can lead to the development and maintenance of depression. Similarly, initial evidence suggests that how we represent and store information about our romantic partners (for instance, having a well-organized negative belief system and a poorly organized positive belief system about our partner) can lead to low relationship satisfaction. The current study aimed to measure both of these types of beliefs (i.e., about oneself and about one’s partner) simultaneously, to determine how they uniquely contribute to depression and romantic relationship distress in romantic couples. A total of 150 couples participated in the study, and each participant completed a series of questionnaires in their own private testing room. Results suggested that a poorly organized positive belief system about one’s partner was associated with lower relationship satisfaction, and also contributed to one’s partner’s experience of lower relationship satisfaction. Additionally, a well-organized negative belief system about oneself was associated with higher levels of depression. Findings from this line of research may eventually inform couple therapy protocols used by therapists: the therapist could monitor each partner’s beliefs about the other partner over time to determine whether necessary improvements are being made.
Hicks, Owen, "The Effects of Self- and Partner- Schemas on Relationship Quality and Depression in Romantic Dyads" (2023). Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository. 9386.
Available for download on Tuesday, July 01, 2025