Explicating the Prominent Researched Factors Contributing to Couple Relationship Well-being: A Multi-Grounded Meta-Synthesis

Sharkey, Jennifer Ann
Goedeke, Sonja
Feather, Jackie
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Doctor of Philosophy
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Auckland University of Technology

This study comprehensively reviews and summarises the multi-disciplinary relationship science research to elucidate the key factors involved in developing and maintaining couple relationship well-being. The aim was to develop an explanatory model based on a significant body of experimental knowledge that can be used to inform and guide therapists, educators, researchers, and couples in the betterment of couple relationships. To achieve this a pragmatic five-phase Multi-Grounded Theory investigation allowed:

  1. The collation of more than 25,000 academic publications into Endnote.
  2. The identification of more than 1,000 relevant factors being researched in these studies, creating a dictionary-codebook.
  3. Network modelling of the ten most prominent factors in the literature and their co-occurrence with other factors in research studies.
  4. The interpretation of these findings by reviewing the literature they were
    drawn from.
  5. The diagrammatical structuring of the findings into an explanatory model.

The ten factors found to be the most researched relating to couple relationship well-being in the collated corpus were: Attachment, personality, emotion, perception, emotion regulation, conflict, communication, neurological, biological sex differences, and stress. Research throughout the last seventy years has repeatedly affirmed these factors as critical to the development and maintenance of couple relationship well-being outcomes (both negatively and positively). As attachment and personality were the most prolifically researched of these ten and were the factors most researched conjunctively with other factors, these became pivotal in the creation of the explanatory model. In the model, attachment and personality are shown as significantly influencing individual and relational patterns of emotion, perception, and emotional regulation which in turn influence conflict and communication patterns. Attachment and personality are themselves influenced by biopsychosocial factors, including genetic and neurological factors, as well as biological sex differences. Stress and stress-related contexts – both historical and current – influence all these factors. The final explanatory model created in this study is a unique summation of an exceptionally large corpus of empirically-based knowledge, offering an unprecedented and readily accessible overview of the multi-disciplinary research findings regarding couple relationship well-being.

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