Loyola University Maryland

Emerging Scholars

Anil Gonsalves, Ralph L. Piedmont, Ph.D., Teresa A. Wilkins, Ph.D.

Incremental Validity of Nonviolent Communication Over Personality and Spirituality in Predicting  Marital Satisfaction

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Earlier observational research studies revealed that marital satisfaction is strongly correlated with communication patterns and that negative interactions can lead to dysfunctionality in a couple’s relationship (Gottman & Notarius, 2002).  The current study proposed nonviolent communication (NVC) as a marital relationship enhancer.  The specific question investigated was: what is the role of NVC and spirituality on marital satisfaction?  This study explored relationships among NVC, spirituality, and personality styles in married adults across the sample with family functionality and marital adjustment and satisfaction.  It was hypothesized that NVC and spirituality, both individually and collectively, predict marital satisfaction when controlling for personality.  Participants were United States citizens, married for at least a year, and living together in a committed relationship.  Participants (N = 146) were female (61%) and male (39%), ranging in age from 21 to 74 years (M = 38.12, SD = 11.35).  The majority of the participants were White (86.3%) consisting of atheists (32.9%), Catholics (18.5%), other Christians (15.8%), and Baptists (10.3%).  Participants completed a number of questionnaires on personality (Big Five IPIP-50), spirituality (Numinous Motivational Inventory [NMI]), family conflict (Conflict Tactic Scale), relational satisfaction and problems (Marital Adjustment Test), and family functioning (Family Assessment Device).  The results indicated a significant relationship between two of NVC subscales [Verbal Aggression, r(144) = .46, p < 001 and Violence Scale, r(144) = .49, p < .001] save Reasoning Scale, r(144) = .12, p = .15, and four of the personality facets [Emotional Stability, r(144) = -.32, p < .001; Openness, r(144) = -.28, p < .001; Agreeableness, r(144) = -.35, p < .001; and Conscientiousness, r(144) = -.32, p < .001], save extraversion, r(144) = -.16, p = .06, with marital adjustment.  Among NMI facets worthiness, r(148) = .57, p < .001 indicated a significant relationship with marital satisfaction.  Hierarchical multiple regression analyses were conducted.  NVC demonstrated unique power over and above spirituality and personality variables, explaining 5% additional variances.  Spirituality also predicted incremental validity over personality, with worthiness explaining between 18% additional variance in marital satisfaction.  The clinical, pastoral, and research implications were also discussed.


  Key-words: nonviolent communication, marital satisfaction, negative interactions, couple relationship, spirituality, personality  







Gottman, J. M., & Notarius, C. I. (2002). Marital research in the 20th century and a research agenda for the 21st century.Family Process, 41(2), 159-197. doi:10.1111/j.1545-5300.2002.41203.x