Category: Couples / Close Relationships

PS8- #A28 - Links Between Psychological Flexibility and Relationship Quality in Couples Engaging the PAIR Intervention

Saturday, Nov 18
8:30 AM – 9:30 AM
Location: Indigo Ballroom CDGH, Level 2, Indigo Level

Keywords: Couples / Close Relationships | ACT (Acceptance & Commitment Therapy) | Experiential Avoidance

BACKGROUND: A growing number of studies support the efficacy of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) across a range of diagnoses and disorders, and a growing body of empirical work has further underscored the importance of the individual dimensions of psychological flexibility within the Hexaflex model that serve as primary ACT intervention targets. Building on this work, Rolffs, Rogge, & Wilson (2016) developed the Multidimensional Psychological Flexibility Inventory (MPFI) to assess the 12 specific dimensions of flexibility and inflexibility in the Hexaflex model. The current study sought to examine how those dimensions of flexibility might predict response to the Promoting Awareness, Improving Relationships (PAIR) intervention, a self-guided program that has been linked to reductions in divorce over the first 3 years of marriage.


METHOD: An online sample of 170 parenting couples (n=340 parents) were enrolled in a waitlist RCT of the PAIR program. Parents were assessed at 0, 1, and 2 months. During their assigned 1-month treatment period, parents received invitations to a pre-screened list of films and online forms that helped guide them through relationship discussions prompted by those films. A small portion of parents (n=80) additionally completed a follow-up at 8-months to capture decay in treatment effects.


RESULTS: We created three-level slope-intercept models in HLM using an APIM framework. Analyses suggested that the individual dimensions of psychological flexibility predicted higher levels of satisfaction at baseline within and between partners across both males and females. Dimensions of flexibility and inflexibility also moderated the impact of negative conflict on relationships across time. For example, high experiential avoidance (rigidly avoiding negative experiences and feelings) in male partners at baseline exacerbated the negative effects of baseline male negative conflict on female relationship satisfaction both at baseline and across the 2 months of the study. In contrast, female negative conflict at baseline predicted increases in male satisfaction across time, but only in couples with less psychologically flexible female partners, suggesting different meanings for male and female negative conflict.


CONCLUSIONS: Taken together, these findings suggest that psychological flexibility can inform responses to self-guided, awareness-based interventions like the PAIR program, providing insights as to the types of couples most likely to benefit from trying such programs. The results further suggested that the flexible or inflexible ways people approach negative thoughts, feelings and experiences in life could serve as important moderators of relationship processes like negative conflict, potentially changing the meaning of those processes. Implications for intervention work will be discussed.

Ronald D. Rogge

University of Rochester
Rochester, New York

Dev Crasta

Doctoral Candidate
University of Rochester
Rochester, New York