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The roles of self-regulation and partner regulation on romantic relationship quality

APA Citation:

Ferguson, E. K., & Karantzas, G. C. (2023). The roles of self-regulation and partner regulation on romantic relationship quality. Family Process, 62(1), 406–422. https://doi.org/10.1111/famp.12782

Abstract Created by REACH:

Individuals in a romantic relationship may use adaptive self-regulation (i.e., controlling one’s own thoughts, emotions, or behaviors) and/or adaptive partner regulation (i.e., controlling or changing a partner’s thoughts, emotions, or behaviors) when conflict arises. This study examined how adaptive self-regulation and adaptive partner regulation were related to relationship quality among 114 heterosexual, civilian couples in Australia. Each partner self-reported regulation strategies and relationship quality (e.g., satisfaction, intimacy). In addition, couples’ regulation strategies during a discussion about an unresolved issue in their relationship were recorded and coded. This approach allowed for a multi-faceted measurement of regulation strategies (i.e., both self-reporting and observer reporting). Overall, adaptive self-regulation contributed positively to one’s own and their partner’s relationship quality, whereas adaptive partner regulation was unrelated to relationship quality for both partners.


Mental health

Subject Affiliation:



Adulthood (18 yrs & older)
Young adulthood (18 - 29 yrs)
Thirties (30 - 39 yrs)
Middle age (40 - 64 yrs)


Ferguson, Elizabeth K., Karantzas, Gery C.


Research into self-regulation and partner regulation strategies has largely involved parallel lines of research, thus, it is difficult to determine the relative contribution of both forms of regulation when it comes to relationship outcomes. Therefore, the question remains as to which form of regulation is more strongly associated with relationship quality; is it more important to focus on adaptive self-regulation or adaptive strategies to regulate one's partner? The current research addresses this important gap by comparing the relative associations of adaptive self-regulation and adaptive partner regulation strategies on romantic relationship quality. A community sample of mixed gender couples (N = 114) who were predominantly satisfied with their current relationships – but nonetheless still experienced relationship conflict – were administered self-report assessments of various self-regulation and partner regulation strategies as well as a measure of relationship quality. Couples also participated in a videotaped discussion of an unresolved relationship issue that was scored by trained coders for verbal and nonverbal indicators of self-regulation and partner regulation strategies. Actor–partner interdependence modeling revealed that for both men and women, adaptive self-regulation strategies were positively associated with their own evaluations of relationship quality as well as their partner's relationship quality. In contrast, engaging in adaptive partner regulation strategies was not significantly associated with men's or women's own, or their partner's relationship quality. Findings highlight the importance of focusing on self-regulation in relationships, as it is these strategies, over partner regulation strategies, that have more positive implications for the relationship quality experienced by typically satisfied couples.

Publication Type:

REACH Publication


conflict, partner regulation, relationship quality, romantic relationships, self-regulation

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REACH Publication Type:

Research Summary

REACH Newsletter:

  August 2023

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