Dynamical Systems Modeling of Couple Interaction: a New Method for Assessing Intervention Impact Across the Transition to Parenthood

Mark E. Feinberg, Mengya Xia, Gregory M. Fosco, Richard E. Heyman, Sy Miin Chow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study explored the use of dynamical systems modeling techniques to evaluate self- and co-regulation of affect in couples’ interactions before and after the transition to parenthood, and the impact of the Family Foundations program on these processes. Thirty-four heterosexual couples, randomized to intervention and control conditions, participated in videotaped dyadic interaction tasks at pretest (during pregnancy) and posttest (1 year after birth). Husbands’ and wives’ positivity and negativity were micro-coded throughout interactions. Individual negativity set-points, self-regulation, and partner co-regulatory processes during interactions were examined using a coupled oscillators model. Regarding self-regulatory processes, men exhibited amplification of negativity at the prenatal assessment that did not change at the postnatal assessment; women demonstrated no significant damping or amplification at pretest and a marginally significant change towards greater amplification at the postnatal assessment. In terms of partner-influenced regulatory dynamics, men’s positive behaviors changed from damping to amplifying women’s negative behaviors in the control group following the transition to parenthood, but exerted an even stronger damping effect on women’s negative behaviors in the intervention group. The study highlights the advantages of dynamic modeling approaches in testing specific hypotheses in the study of self- and co-regulatory couple dynamics and demonstrates the potential of studying dynamic processes to further understanding of developmental and intervention-related change mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)887-898
Number of pages12
JournalPrevention Science
Issue number8
StatePublished - Nov 1 2017


  • Couple interaction
  • Coupled oscillators model
  • Dynamical systems modeling
  • Family Foundations
  • Functional data analysis
  • Transition to parenting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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