Date of Award


Document type


Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


First Advisor

Paula Pietromonaco

Second Advisor

Maureen Perry-Jenkins

Third Advisor

Sally Powers

Subject Categories

Psychology | Social Psychology


This study investigated the extent to which gender moderates, and perceptions of fairness mediate, the link between marital power and overall marital satisfaction, as well as cortisol stress trajectories in response to marital distress. Study 1 examined a sample of 213 opposite sex newlywed couples from western Massachusetts, and focused on marital satisfaction as the dependent variable. Findings from the structural equation analysis suggested that perceptions of relationship fairness concerning the division of labor completely mediated the association between marital power and marital satisfaction for wives, but not for husbands. These results also implied an association between wives' perceptions of fairness and husbands' marital satisfaction. Study 2 looked at a subsample (N = 158 couples) of newlywed couples and investigated the effect of experiencing marital power on cortisol stress reactivity and recovery in response to a marital conflict discussion. Findings from the structural equation model suggested a significant association between marital power and stress reactivity & recovery for all participants, with low power wives exhibiting a failure to recover back to baseline levels of stress post-conflict. Methodological and measurement issues pertaining to the study of marital power are discussed, as well as potential implications of this work on future studies related to marital well-being.