Research: KIECOLT-GLASER et al, Dep

Listed in Issue 27


KIECOLT-GLASER et al, Department of Psychiatry, Ohio State University, Columbus USA studied endocrine and immune parameters associated with marital conflict and satisfaction.



31 older couples with a mean age of 67 years who had been been married on average for 42 years were recruited to the study. A catheter was placed in each persons arm and blood was drawn on entry for immune, analyses. For hormone analyses, 5 blood samples were drawn during a 30-minute conflict discussion and a 15-minute recovery session. Conflict sessions were video-recorded and later coded for problem-solving behaviours using the Marital Interaction Coding System (MICS).


For wives, escalation of negative behaviour during conflict, and marital satisfaction were strongly related to endocrine changes accounting for 16-21% of rate of change for cortisol, adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) and norepinephrine. In husbands however, there were no significant relationships between endocrine data and negative behaviour or marital quality. Both men and women who showed poorer immunological responses to three functional assays (blastogenic response to two T-cell mitogens and antibody titres to latent Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)) displayed more negative behaviour during conflict and also characterised their usual marital disagreements as more negative than individuals who showed better immune responses to the assays.


Abrasive marital interactions may provoke physiological consequences even in older couples in long-term marriages.


Kiecolt-Glaser JK et al. Marital conflict in older adults: endocrinological and immunological correlates. Psychosom Med 59(4): 339-49. Jul-Aug 1997.

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