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Stress Transmission: The Effects of Husbands' Job Stressors on the Emotional Health of Their Wives

Karen Rook, David Dooley and Ralph Catalano
Journal of Marriage and Family
Vol. 53, No. 1 (Feb., 1991), pp. 165-177
DOI: 10.2307/353141
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/353141
Page Count: 13
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Stress Transmission: The Effects of Husbands' Job Stressors on the Emotional Health of Their Wives
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Abstract

Stress researchers traditionally have focused on stressful life events that people experience personally, ignoring the potentially disruptive effects of stressful events experienced by family members and friends. This study examines the effects of husbands' job stressors on the emotional health of their wives. The hypotheses were tested with interview data from 1,383 married women living in a metropolitan area and with panel data from a small subset (n = 92) of women who were reinterviewed after three months. Husbands' stressors were associated with significantly elevated symptom levels in their wives. Wives' elevated distress was not linked to increased vulnerability to other stressors or to parenting and work demands in the wake of their spouses' job misfortunes. Nor did husbands' job difficulties reduce their ability to provide advice and guidance to their wives. Access to social support did not moderate the impact of husbands' job stressors, but marital tension did, with women in deteriorating marriages reporting fewer symptoms in response to their husbands' stressors. Implications for theory and for a dyadic approach to the study of stress are considered.

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