Affect Co - Regulation in the Family (AMBIZIONE)

Close partners spend an important part of their lives together. The most important portion of their lives, they spend in professional settings. As a result, they are required to effectively regulate the affective experiences they make inside and outside the home in order to successfully manage their family life experiences. These transitions and the adaptation processes related to the transitions represent a useful paradigm to study how individuals co-regulate their affect and emotions in intimate family relationships.

The regulation of affective experience in the context of family relationships and interactions represents one of the most important realms of individuals’ emotional lives. Such complex dynamic interpersonal processes, including both controlled and automatic, intra-individual and interpersonal elements of emotion regulation, are likely to have a lasting impact on peoples’ individual and interpersonal functioning, as they are a core area of adaptation or maladaptation to life’s major and minor, acute and chronic challenges. In this way, individual differences in such processes are likely to be relevant with respect to the development, maintenance, aggravation and relapse of psychological disorders.

However, relatively little empirical research has examined such dynamic interpersonal processes in daily life, and rarely has this research adapted a comprehensive theoretical perspective. In addition, a linkage between daily life processes and the long-term development of individual and interpersonal functioning has been widely assumed, but only very few studies include assessments of daily interpersonal dynamics and long-term processes in a single study. Our research aims to fill these gaps by combining the assessment of daily affect co-regulation processes with the repeated assessment of individual and interpersonal well-being over a one-year period. This will allow assessment of how couples deal with their own and their partner's daily experiences, how these processes differ depending on individuals' characteristics, and whether such differences can explain changes in individual and interpersonal functioning over two six-month periods. A secondary goal is to advance the use of computer-assisted ambulatory assessment methodology as applied to couples.

 

Relationship Processes Across Cultures

The socio-cultural context within which we live influences our interpersonal experiences in profound ways. Yet, knowledge on such influences of culture similar contextual influences on relationship processes only beginning to accumulate. At the same time, a majority of published studies on close relationships and their functioning are based on samples from the US or Western Europe. Cultural influences of this kind are not restricted to close relationships, but close relationships – and specially the different kinds of relationships which in diverse cultures are considered family relationships – are an important catalyst of culture effects on affective interpersonal experience. The study of mechanisms behind such variability is not only important to understand cultural phenomena and the origin cross-cultural differences, but also to understand how an individual’s psychological and social functioning is modulated by its cultural or ethnic background. The same type of cultural influence become increasingly complex in immigrant families, and understanding such influences is a major challenge for clinical psychological research.

Using ambulatory assessment data from Western European, Southern European, Russian and Chinese Parents of young Children, we explore various aspects in which couples' daily lives differ systematically across cultural contexts. These data, for example, suggested that couples have very different formal and informal networks of social support, which is also reflected in couples' expectations about assistance from family members and friends. Another culture-sensitive area in couple processes seems to be how individual deal with the experience of negative emotion, particularly anger and criticism, in an interpersonal context. Spouses' sensitivity to partner anger in common home settings seems to be considerably more accentuated when collectivistic cultural values and norms prevail. In collaboration with Dr. Zhiyun Wang (Beijing Normal University), we currently examine regulatory patterns of individual and interpersonal stress, and how interpersonal regulation differs between the two types of stress.

Department of Psychology - R. Faucigny 2 - 1700 Fribourg - Tel +41 26 / 300 7620 - psychologie [at] unifr.ch   -   Swiss University