Encyclopedia of Couple and Family Therapy

2019 Edition
| Editors: Jay L. Lebow, Anthony L. Chambers, Douglas C. Breunlin

Couple Distress in Couple and Family Therapy

  • Douglas K. SnyderEmail author
  • Richard E. Heyman
  • Stephen N. Haynes
  • Christina Balderrama-Durbin
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-49425-8_192

Name of Concept

Couple Distress in Couple and Family Therapy


Couple distress; Relationship dissatisfaction; Relationship distress


Couple distress has a markedly high prevalence, has a strong linkage to emotional and physical health problems in the adult partners and their offspring, and is among the most frequent primary or secondary concerns reported by individuals seeking assistance from mental health professionals.

In the United States, the most salient indicator of couple distress remains a divorce rate of 40–50% among married couples, with about half of these occurring within the first 7 years of marriage. Independent of divorce, many, if not most, marriages experience periods of significant turmoil that place partners at risk for dissatisfaction, dissolution, or symptom development (e.g., depression or anxiety); roughly one-third of married persons report being in a distressed relationship. Couple distress covaries with overall life dissatisfaction even more...

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Epstein, N. B., & Baucom, D. H. (2002). Enhanced cognitive-behavioral therapy for couples: A contextual approach. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Gottman, J. M. (1994). What predicts divorce? The relationship between marital processes and marital outcomes. Hillsdale: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  3. Heyman, R. E. (2001). Observation of couple conflicts: Clinical assessment applications, stubborn truths, and shaky foundations. Psychological Assessment, 13, 5–35.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  4. Lebow, J. L., Chambers, A. L., Christensen, A., & Johnson, S. M. (2012). Research on the treatment of couple distress. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 38, 145–168.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Snyder, D. K., & Balderrama-Durbin, C. (2012). Integrative approaches to couple therapy: Implications for clinical practice and research. Behavior Therapy, 43, 13–24.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Snyder, D. K., Heyman, R. E., Haynes, S. N., & Balderrama-Durbin, C. (in press). Couple distress. In J. Hunsley & E. Mash (Eds.), A guide to assessments that work (2nd ed., pp. xxx–xxx). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Vaez, E., Indran, R., Abdollahi, A., Juhari, R., & Mansor, M. (2015). How marital relations affect child behavior: Review of recent research. Vulnerable Children and Youth Studies, 10, 321–336.Google Scholar
  8. Whisman, M. A. (2007). Marital distress and DSM-IV psychiatric disorders in a population-based national survey. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 116, 638–643.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Douglas K. Snyder
    • 1
    Email author
  • Richard E. Heyman
    • 2
  • Stephen N. Haynes
    • 3
  • Christina Balderrama-Durbin
    • 4
  1. 1.Texas A&M UniversityCollege StationUSA
  2. 2.Family Translational Research GroupNew York UniversityNew YorkUSA
  3. 3.University of Hawaiʻi at MānoaHonoluluUSA
  4. 4.Binghamton University – State University of New YorkBinghamtonUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Kelley Quirk
    • 1
  • Adam Fisher
    • 2
  1. 1.Colorado State University, Marriage and Family Therapy Program, Human Development and Family StudiesFort CollinsUSA
  2. 2.The Family Institute at Northwestern UniversityEvanstonUSA