Daily patterns of stress and conflict in couples: Associations with marital aggression and family-of-origin aggression

Adela C. Timmons, Reout Arbel, Gayla Margolin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


For many married individuals, the ups and downs of daily life are connected such that stressors impacting one person also impact the other person. For example, stress experienced by one individual may "spill over" to negatively impact marital functioning. This study used both partners' daily diary data to examine same-day and cross-day links between stress and marital conflict and tested several factors that make couples vulnerable to spillover. Assessment of 25 wide-ranging sources of daily stress included both paid and unpaid work, health issues, financial concerns, and having to make difficult decisions. Results showed that both husbands' and wives' experiences of total daily stress were associated with greater same-day marital conflict and that conflict was greater on days both spouses experienced high levels of stress. Evidence of cross-day spillover was found only in those couples with high concurrent marital aggression and in couples where wives reported high family-of-origin aggression. These results highlight both the common, anticipated nature of same-day spillover and the potentially problematic aspects of more prolonged patterns representing failure to recover from stressors that occurred the previous day. The discussion focuses on how reactivity in one life domain puts that individual at risk for generating stress in another life domain and how current marital aggression and family-of-origin aggression are associated with difficulty recovering from stressful events.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)93-104
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Family Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2017
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This project is based on work supported by National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Grant R21HD072170-A1 (Gayla Margolin, PI), Southern California Clinical and Translational Science Institute (NIH/National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences) through Grant UL1TR000130 (Gayla Margolin, PI), the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program Grant DGE-0937362 (Adela C. Timmons, PI), the American Association for University Women Fellowship (Reout Arbel, PI), and the Israeli Council for Higher Education (Reout Arbel, PI). Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the NIH.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 American Psychological Association.


  • Conflict
  • Family-of-origin aggression
  • Marital aggression
  • Spillover
  • Stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


Dive into the research topics of 'Daily patterns of stress and conflict in couples: Associations with marital aggression and family-of-origin aggression'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this