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Dark Personality Traits Diminish Women’s Happiness in Marriages

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Recent research published in the Applied Family Therapy Journal has shed light on the significant impact of dark personality traits on women’s happiness within marital relationships. Mahdi Mahdavi and colleagues from various universities in Tehran, Iran, conducted the study.

The research aimed to explore how dark personality traits mediate the relationship between the desire to control others and women’s happiness. The study employed a descriptive correlational research design with a structural equation modelling approach. The sample consisted of 448 married women from Tehran, selected through purposive convenience sampling.

  • Dark personality traits. These traits include machiavellianism, narcissism, and psychopathy, collectively known as the dark triad. These traits include manipulation, self-centeredness, a lack of empathy, and a propensity for aggressive and exploitative behavior.
  • Controlling behaviours. These actions involve various forms of control by one spouse over the other, such as economic control, emotional control, and control through intimidation or isolation.
  • Sense of happiness. For the purposes of this study, women’s happiness was assessed using a specific scale that measures aspects such as trust, empathy, attention, cooperation, love, intimacy, honesty, support, compassion, and emotion regulation.

Participants were assessed using three primary tools: the Taghizadeh and Shadmehri Happiness Scale, the Graham-Kwan and Archer Controlling Behaviours Scale, and the Johnson and Webster Dark Personality Traits Scale. The data were analysed using structural equation modelling to determine the relationships between these variables.

The study found a significant negative relationship between dark personality traits and women’s happiness. Specifically, dark personality traits were found to mediate the relationship between controlling behaviours and happiness, suggesting that women who exhibit higher levels of these traits tend to experience lower levels of happiness in their marital relationships.

The path coefficients in the structural model indicated that controlling behaviours significantly predicted the presence of dark personality traits, which in turn, negatively affected women’s happiness. Dark personality traits significantly mediated the overall effect of controlling behaviours on happiness, highlighting the crucial role these traits play in marital satisfaction and general well-being.

For instance, individuals with high Machiavellian traits tend to dominate and influence their partners, prioritising their own needs over those of others. Similarly, traits associated with narcissism, such as a lack of empathy and a sense of superiority, contribute to an environment where control and manipulation undermine the marital relationship’s health.

The findings have important implications for couples’ counselling and therapy. Understanding the detrimental impact of dark personality traits on marital happiness can help therapists develop targeted interventions to address these issues. It also underscores the need for premarital counselling that can identify and address these traits before they become entrenched in the relationship dynamic.

The study suggests that improving mental health and relationship quality within families can have broader positive effects on society, given that family units are fundamental to social stability.

The study’s limitations include its reliance on self-reported data, which can be subject to bias, and the specific cultural context of Tehran, which may not generalise to other settings. Future research should consider longitudinal designs to assess the long-term effects of dark personality traits on marital happiness and explore these dynamics in diverse cultural contexts.

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