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Access Type

Open Access Thesis

Document Type


Degree Program


Degree Type

Master of Science (M.S.)

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded



Dominance refers to the wide set of behaviors individuals engage in with the intention of achieving or maintaining social status. Considering the relevance of these behaviors in the dynamics of close relationships, this study examined relations among testosterone, dominance, and the emotional health of a total of 225 opposite sex newlywed couples. An original measure of dominance was developed that accounted for both positive and negative manifestations, as well as situational and dispositional qualities of these status-promoting behaviors. Structural equation analyses revealed that dominance behaviors predict depression for both wives and husbands, and that positive and negative aspects of dominance contribute differently to spouses’ depression. Higher levels of depressive symptoms were related to reports of more dispositional hostility for both husbands and wives, as well as to greater submission during a conflict situation. In turn, greater assertiveness was related to fewer depressive symptoms for both husbands and wives. A subset of dominance behaviors reflecting spouses’ appraisals of having had more power, influence, and control relative to their partners during the conflict interaction, exclusively predicted more depressive symptoms for wives. Finally, lower levels of testosterone were indirectly associated with more depressive symptoms for husbands, and this relation was partially mediated by dominance behaviors. Implications of our findings, as well as limitations, are discussed in light of the existent literature and directions for future research on the interpersonal and biological aspects of marital well-being are considered.


First Advisor

Sally I Powers