Protective Buffering and Deception as Moderators of Relational Turbulence among Military Couples

Kelly G. McAninch, Bryan Abendschein, J. Kale Monk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Research suggests that relational uncertainty corresponds with circumscribed communication, yet prior studies have not investigated the related constructs of falsifying information (deception) and concealing concerns to protect a partner (protective buffering). We grounded our investigation in the logic of relational uncertainty theorizing, which explains how uncertainty about a relationship complicates communication and corresponds with appraisals that the relationship is unsteady or chaotic. Our research questions centered on the (a) actor and partner effects of relational uncertainty on relational turbulence, (b) mutual influence of protective buffering and deception on perceptions of turmoil, and (c) protective buffering and deception as moderators in the association between actors’ and partners’ relational uncertainty and relational turbulence. Pairs of at-home partners and service members completed an online survey within a week of the service member’s homecoming to report relationship dynamics and communication during deployment. We found a positive association between actor and partner relational uncertainty and relational turbulence. Furthermore, actors’ (but not partners’) protective buffering and deception were positively associated with relational turbulence. Finally, we found partial evidence for the moderation effects of actors’ protective buffering and deception. We discuss broader implications for relational uncertainty, protective buffering, and deception among military couples.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)366-383
Number of pages18
JournalCommunication Studies
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Central States Communication Association.


  • Romantic relationships
  • actor-partner interdependence model
  • avoidance
  • lying
  • military relationships

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication


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