How we ripple: The interplay of psychological flexibility, wellbeing and relationship quality

Twiselton, Karen (2021). How we ripple: The interplay of psychological flexibility, wellbeing and relationship quality. PhD thesis University of Edinburgh.



The beneficial links between positive features of romantic relationships and health and wellbeing have been widely explored at both the individual level and the couple level. Deepening our understanding of how wellbeing and relationships are connected can inform interventions designed to facilitate growth in these areas. In addition, a growing body of evidence supports the idea that psychological flexibility is a useful concept in the development of wellbeing interventions. To this end, this thesis seeks to deepen our understanding of how individual wellbeing and psychological flexibility are associated with relationship quality at both the individual and the couple level, through a series of six studies. Studies 1-2 begin by discriminating between commonly used measures of psychological flexibility, wellbeing and relationship quality as a baseline for testing hypothesised associations between these constructs. The findings identified that measures largely represented discrete constructs. Studies 2-5 then formed the basis for understanding structural associations first at the individual and then the dyadic levels, with largely consistent findings. At the individual level, more psychologically flexible people reported higher levels of relationship quality directly and also through the mediating effects of higher positive affect and lower negative affect. Within dyads, psychological flexibility predicted relationship quality at both the actor and partner level two months later. There were variations in the way that affect mediated the relation between psychological flexibility and relationship quality, particularly at the partner level, with negative affect having a more pervasive and enduring impact on partner experiences of relationship quality. Finally, this research concludes with an experimental manipulation of psychological flexibility in study 6.
Overall, this research illustrates that a psychologically flexible response style is not only important for individual functioning but also for partner experiences, with implications for relationship functioning over time. The malleability of psychological flexibility makes it an important area for future research as one way in which relationships may be supported both within individual’s themselves and at the dyadic level.

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