Demand-withdraw is an ineffective communication pattern frequently experienced by distressed couples. Therapists often attempt to address this pattern by helping partners understand and regulate the emotions that underlie these behaviors. To date, there is a lack of research focusing on the emotional experiences underlying the demand-withdraw pattern of interaction in couples. Related lines of research focus on emotional arousal and the expression of hard and soft emotions, but this research does not specifically investigate demand-withdraw interactions. The purpose of this study is to identify what emotions underlie demanding behavior in both men and women during marital demand-withdraw conflict interactions. Six couples were chosen from a five-year longitudinal randomized clinical trial that compared Integrative Behavioral Couple Therapy (IBCT) and Traditional Behavioral Couple Therapy (TBCT). Researchers viewed 10-minute pre-treatment problem-solving interactions to observe the demand-withdraw pattern in vivo among couples seeking therapy. The Behavioral Affective Rating Scale (BARS) was used to code the emotions observed during the interactions. The results indicated that the types of emotions varied not only depending on who initiated the problem-solving interaction (e.g., wife topic-husband topic) but also between the different couples, and when comparing gender. Anxiety (#2) and aggression (#4) were in the top four most commonly observed emotions for husbands, while they were two of the least observed emotions for wives. Moreover, frustration and hurt were the two most observed emotions for wives, while they were the least observed emotions for husbands.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Dissertations (PsyD) -- Psychology; Couples therapy -- Case studies; Interpersonal relations -- Psychological aspects; Emotions

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Eldridge, Kathleen;