Identity verification, control, and aggression in marriage

  • Stets J
  • Burke P
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Abstract

In this research we study the identity verification process and its effects in marriage. Drawing on identity control theory, we hypothesize that a lack of verification in the spouse identity (1) threatens stable self-meanings and interaction patterns between spouses,and (2) challenges a (nonverified) spouse’s perception of control over the envi- ronment. In response to both of these circumstances, spouses increase control over their partners to counteract disturbances to self-in-situation meanings and to regain the per- ception of control over their environment. When increased control over the partner does not reaffirm one’s identity or restore the perception of control, one may use aggression to gain control. Analysis of data from newly married couples over the first two years of marriage provides results that are consistent with this thesis. In general, we see how the lack of identity verification is tied to the control process, leads to dysfunc- tional interaction patterns in marriage, and more broadly threatens a stable social structure.

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Authors

  • Jan E. Stets

  • Peter J. Burke

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