Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Human Development and Family Studies

First Advisor

Ronald Werner-Wilson


A study was designed to explore the content and process of marital history storytelling in later life couples and the relationship of storytelling content and process to marital satisfaction. Fifty-six Caucasian couples ranging in age from 47--83 years were recruited for participation in the study. Each spouse completed the Satisfaction subscale of the Dyadic Adjustment Scale (DAS; Spanier & Cole, 1974) and couples participated in an Oral History Interview (Buehlman, Gottman, & Katz, 1992) designed to elicit their marital history story. Research team members viewed each interview and obtained consensus scores for each couple using the Global Assessment of Relational Functioning (GARF; APA, 1994). All interviews were transcribed and data was segmented into thought units and speeches. The Relationship Path Coding System (RPCS) was designed to code thought units in marital stories according to content and process variables. Content variables included amount of detail, positive storytelling, and chronological reference. Process variables included detailed and general communication sequences, and speech and thought unit differences between spouses for each couple. Investigators hypothesized that couples who utilized greater amounts of detail, positive storytelling and chronological reference in their marital history stories would report higher marital satisfaction on the DAS and would receive higher GARF ratings from observers. It was also hypothesized that couples who utilized more detailed communication sequences and spoke equally in terms of thought units and speeches would report higher marital satisfaction and would receive higher GARF ratings. Regression analyses were used to predict DAS and GARF scores. Results for content variables demonstrated that the greater use of detail in marital stories predicted DAS scores of husbands and GARF ratings but no content variables predicted DAS scores of wives. Results for process variables demonstrated that use of detailed sequences predicted greater marital satisfaction of husbands and wives as well as higher GARF ratings. GARF rating was predicted by equality in the number of speeches from husbands and wives. Implications include increasing the storytelling literature the use of stories as assessment in marital therapy.



Digital Repository @ Iowa State University,

Copyright Owner

Daniel James Harkness



Proquest ID


File Format


File Size

165 pages