Is Gratitude Always Beneficial to Interpersonal Relationships? The Interplay of Grateful Disposition, Grateful Mood, and Grateful Expression Among Married Couples

Joyce L.T. Leong, Sylvia Xiaohua Chen, Helene H.L. Fung, Michael Harris Bond, Nicolson Y.F. Siu, Jay Yijie Zhu

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


A growing body of research has documented positive outcomes of gratitude in personal and interpersonal domains. To uncover the dynamic process of gratitude and relational well-being, we examined the interplay of grateful disposition, grateful mood, and grateful expression in ongoing close relationships. Hong Kong Chinese couples (n = 100) participated in a three-wave study across three consecutive weeks. Adopting the Actor–Partner Interdependence Model, we found that at Time 1, grateful disposition not only predicted one’s own grateful mood but also the perceived grateful mood of one’s spouse, both of which predicted marital satisfaction. At Time 2, the couples were randomly assigned to two conditions over 2 weeks: having one spouse keeping a private gratitude journal or overtly expressing gratitude to the other. Couples’ grateful mood increased at Time 3, indicating the effectiveness of both interventions. However, the resulting changes in marital satisfaction differed for the beneficiaries (enactors) and benefactors (targets), such that husbands who perceived their wife’s expressed gratitude as less sincere declined in their marital satisfaction. The results reveal the boundary conditions in evaluating expressions of gratitude and improvement of relationships and provide implications for social exchange and couple therapy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)64-78
Number of pages15
JournalPersonality and Social Psychology Bulletin
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2020


  • dyadic interdependence
  • gratitude
  • marital satisfaction
  • sincerity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology

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