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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 200425 Find in a Library
Title: Marital Conflict and Health: Processes and Protective Factors
Journal: Aggression and Violent Behavior  Volume:8  Issue:3  Dated:May-June 2003  Pages:283-312
Author(s): Stephanie Whitson; Mona El-Sheikh
Editor(s): Vincent B. Van Hasselt; Michel Hersen
Date Published: May 2003
Page Count: 30
Type: Report (Study/Research)
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This paper attempts to connect some of the gaps in the literature on marriage and physical health through a review of research related to the effects of marital conflict on physical health, providing a conceptualization of the physiological process active in the association, and proposing a physiological model of moderation of the relation.
Abstract: The relation between marriage and physical health has been recognized for many decades and explored in various forms. This paper provides a critical examination of the influence of marital conflict on physiological predecessors of physical ailments and subsequent incidence of health problems. The paper begins with a review of empirical explorations of the relations between marital conflict and the physical health of marriage partners and their children. It continues by presenting a potential pathway by which conflict may influence health, specifically through chronic or excessive sympathetic activation. Lastly, the explicating of the role of vagal regulation as a protective mechanism in the relation between marital conflict and physical health is addressed, drawing heavily from the Polyvagal Theory, implicating sympathetic arousal as more detrimental than parasympathetic arousal. Based on the literature, it is apparent that characteristics of marriage, particularly conflict, have an impact on the health of individuals. Conflict generally results in physiological arousal, particularly arousal of the sympathetic nervous system (SNS). Chronic and sustained SNS arousal is associated with decrements immune functioning, accounting at least partially for the relation between marital status and health. Individuals with adaptive vagal regulation may help avoid potentially harmful sympathetic arousal and may be able to respond in a more adaptive manner using emotional regulation and communication. Vagal regulation may function as a buffer to the impact of marital conflict on physical health. References
Main Term(s): Marital problems
Index Term(s): Diseases; Domestic relations; Family crisis; Home environment; Medical evaluation; Medical research
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