Marital discord and depression in middle-aged and older couples: Is taxon status associated with depression? Academic Article uri icon


  • Although a large literature links relationship discord with depression, most prior studies have evaluated relationship discord as a continuous variable and have examined this association in younger couples. Based on findings suggesting that the latent structure of marital discord is taxonic, this study evaluated whether taxon status was associated with depressive symptoms in middle-aged and older individuals and whether taxon status accounted for unique variance in depressive symptoms, over and above that which was accounted for by continuous measures of marital quality. This association was examined in a community sample of 502 couples who had been married at least 10 years and in which at least one spouse was 55 to 75 years old. There were statistically significant differences between taxon (discordant) and complement (nondiscordant) women and men in depressive symptoms, with discordant spouses reporting higher levels of depressive symptoms than nondiscordant spouses. For wives but not for husbands, taxon status contributed to symptoms beyond the effect of the mean of continuously distributed marital quality scales, indicating a point at which couple taxon status incrementally predicts a significant increase in depressive symptoms. Implications for clinical assessment and further research are discussed.

published proceedings


altmetric score

  • 1.25

author list (cited authors)

  • Whisman, M. A., Robustelli, B. L., Beach, S., Snyder, D. K., & Harper, J. M.

citation count

  • 16

complete list of authors

  • Whisman, Mark A||Robustelli, Briana L||Beach, Steven RH||Snyder, Douglas K||Harper, James M

publication date

  • November 2015