Marital Problems

Marital Problems Based on Cognitive Factors.

Baucom and Eipstein (1990) proposed a cognitive-based explanation for Marital Problems, focusing on factors that contribute to and perpetuate dysfunctional marriages. These factors include perception, attributions, expectancies, assumptions, and standards. The Systemic Model of Distressing Intimate Relationships offers a comprehensive framework for understanding Marital Problems.

According to the cognitive-behavioral model, behavior, thoughts, and emotions are interconnected. It assumes that changing one’s thoughts can lead to changes in behavior, and vice versa.

Some cognitive factors that contribute to Marital Problems are:


It refers to how individuals interpret events. In marital relationships, partners may selectively focus on certain aspects of interactions or events, a phenomenon known as selective attention. This selective attention can result in distorted experiences of one’s partner, oneself, or the relationship, as partners may focus more on negative behaviors than positive ones.


It is the process of explaining the reasons behind a person’s behavior. Negative attributions, where one partner attributes negative intentions or motives to the other’s actions, are commonly observed in marital distress. This often leads to a cycle of blame and negative inferences.


These are the predictions that couples make about future events or behavior within the relationship. Expectancies can influence emotions and behaviors. Negative expectancies, such as believing that one’s partner will not listen when upset, can contribute to relationship distress.


These are beliefs held by spouses about each other and intimate relationships in general. These assumptions shape perceptions and attributions. Disruption of assumptions can affect attention, attributions, expectancies, emotional responses, and behavior toward the partner.


These involve personal beliefs about the characteristics that an intimate relationship and its members “should” possess. Standards differ from assumptions in that assumptions reflect how things actually are, while standards are used to evaluate whether a behavior is acceptable. Marital conflict and distress can arise when partners realize that their interactions do not meet the ideal standards of an intimate relationship. Extreme standards set by one partner can also contribute to marital distress when they are not met in the current relationship.


Understanding the cognitive factors that contribute to marital distress is crucial in addressing and resolving relationship problems. Baucom and Eipstein’s cognitive-based approach highlights the significance of perception, attributions, expectancies, assumptions, and standards in shaping marital dynamics. By recognizing and addressing these cognitive factors, couples can work towards improving their relationship satisfaction and overall well-being.

Source: Cognitive Behavioural Marital Therapy, Baucom, D, H., & Epstein, N. (1990).


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