By Megan Muise
As the name of our lab suggests, the majority of our research focuses on couples. We collect and analyze data from both members of the couple, which is often referred to as dyadic research. Dyadic research is important because it allows us to examine the influence one partner’s responses have on the other partner, which is particularly relevant when studying romantic relationships. Since couples spend great deal of time interacting with one another, it is likely that the way that one member of the couple thinks, feels, and acts influences the other.
To account for partners’ influence on one another in couples’ research, a statistical model called the Actor Partner Interdependence Model (APIM) is used to test the interdependence between both partner’s data. Interdependence occurs when one person’s emotions or behaviour affects the emotions or behaviour of a partner. For example, imagine how one partner’s mood might influence the mood of their partner. If one partner comes home from work every day frustrated and angry because their boss is being unfair, the other partner may feel sympathetic for them and become angry in response. If data was only collected from one partner we would notice that they were feeling angry, but would miss the influence and relationship that anger has with the other partner’s mood. Because of the close personal relationship between partners, it is valuable to include both members of the couple in our research to account for and understand the interpersonal dynamics (Cook & Kenney, 2005).
When studying couples who are coping with sexual problems, dyadic analysis also allows us to see how one partner can influence the adjustment of the other partner. In other words, having one partner with a particular characteristic might help the other partner cope with and adjust to the sexual problem. To highlight this point, consider an example from our research on provoked vestibulodynia (PVD), a sexual pain condition affecting 7-12% of women in the general population. We gathered data from 87 women diagnosed with PVD and their partners to see if the way they communicate influenced how well they adjusted to the pain. The results showed that when partners communicated more collaboratively (e.g., both members express their feelings to one another), women with PVD reported significantly lower sexual distress (Rancourt et. al, 2017).
To put it simply, without input from both partners in couples research we are only getting half of the story. For this reason, the majority of the research done in our lab is dyadic.
Cook, W. L., & Kenney, D. A. (2005) The Actor-Partner Interdependence Model: A model of bidirectional effects in developmental studies. International Journal of Behavioural Development, 29 (2), 101-109. doi: 10.1080/01650250444000405.
Rancourt, K.M., Flynn, M., Bergeron, S., & Rosen, N.O. (2017) It takes two: Sexual communication patterns and the sexual and relational adjustment of couples coping with provoked vestibulodynia. The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 14, 434-443. doi: