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Perceived stress, adult attachment, dyadic coping and marital satisfaction of counseling graduate students

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Kerrie N. Kardatzke (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Craig S. Cashwell

Abstract: Participation in a graduate program introduces a number of both acute stressors (e.g., specific milestones such as comprehensive exams and dissertation proposals) and chronic stressors (e.g., rigorous workload, work-life balance) that have the potential to impact student marriages negatively (Brannock et al., 2000; Katz et al., 2000; Legako & Sorenson, 2000). One of the most commonly reported stressors associated with graduate study is lack of time and energy for the couple or family (Gold, 2006; Sori et al., 1996). In addition, the personal and emotional nature of counseling work can contribute to burnout, compassion fatigue, and psychological distress (Emerson & Markos, 1996; Skovholt, 2001; Stebnicki, 2007), which may impact students' marriages, their ability to navigate the training program successfully, and their clinical effectiveness. Attachment characteristics of each partner and dyadic coping strategies used by the couple may help to determine how these stressors impact the marriage. Given the ongoing stressors and high risk of burnout inherent in helping professions (O'Halloran & Linton, 2000; Skovholt, 2001; Sweeney, 2001), the development of effective dyadic coping strategies during the training program may have long-term benefits for students, their partners, and ultimately, their clients. Therefore, the overarching purpose of this study was to examine a combination of factors that impact the marital satisfaction of counseling graduate students, and to test moderation and mediation models involving these factors. Attachment theory and the Vulnerability-Stress-Adaptation model provided complementary frameworks that guided the design and methodology of the study. A sample of 191 married students from 23 randomly-selected CACREP-accredited counseling programs participated in an electronic survey. Instrumentation included the Relationship Assessment Scale (RAS; Hendrick, 1988), Perceived Stress Scale (PSS; Cohen, Kamarck, & Mermelstein, 1983), Experiences in Close Relationships - Revised (ECR-R; Fraley, Waller, & Brennan, 2000), Dyadic Coping Inventory (DCI; G. Bodenmann, personal communication, August 11, 2008), Marital Instability Index - Brief Form (MII; Booth, Johnson, & Edwards, 1983), a questionnaire addressing the division of household tasks (adapted from Erickson, 2005; Kurdek, 2007), and a demographic questionnaire. Pearson Product Moment Correlations indicated that the relationships among the study variables existed in the expected directions. Attachment anxiety, attachment avoidance, and dyadic coping accounted for 67% of the variance in marital satisfaction, providing strong evidence that these variables are important predictors of marital satisfaction. Dyadic coping did not serve a moderating role in the relationship between perceived stress and marital satisfaction, but did partially mediate the relationships between both attachment dimensions and marital satisfaction. Master's and doctoral students did not differ significantly on any of the primary study variables. This study highlights the key roles of adult attachment characteristics and dyadic coping patterns in predicting the marital satisfaction of counseling graduate students. The findings provide direction for future research and practical implications for counselors, educators, graduate students and their partners.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2009
Attachment, Dyadic Coping, Graduate Students, Marital Satisfaction, Stress
Counseling $x Study and teaching $x Education (Higher) $x Psychological aspects.
Graduate students $x Family relationships.
Counselor trainees $x Family relationships.
Married students.
Stress (Psychology)
Spouses $x Psychology.