University of California psychologists Alexander Karan, Robert Rosenthal, and Megan L. Robbins conducted a meta-analysis on the relationship between we-talk and relationship and personal functional among romantic relationships.
We-talk is the act of speaking and engaging with your partner and others in first person plural. So, instead of “You need to fix this”, we-talk would be “We need to find a way to get through this.” It is also important to distinguish that the term “we” must be included, for pronoun combinations such as “You and I need to get through this” do not breed the same results.
With respect to functioning, the focus is on mental health, physical health, and health behaviors for one’s self (personal) and their dyad (relationship as a whole).
Previous studies show that we-talk and health functioning are closely related to the interdependence theory, when one’s own motivations and identity shift more towards the relationship as whole; in other words, identity expansion. With we-talk, people begin to see themselves as a part of a whole, often minimizing negative feelings and accentuating positive feelings.
It is important to note that some studies have shown that we-talk does not significantly relate to all health functioning possibilities, such as anxiety and depressive symptoms. And, in order to elicit positive functioning, one’s partner has to engage in some sort of reciprocity. Also, the design of some studies, such as laboratory vs. natural settings and patient (if one person of the couple is a patient) vs. spouse we-talk may lead to different results.
Due to the fact that there has not been a lot of research on these variables in relation to each other, the investigators decided that a meta-analysis could provide a general consensus on the subject matter and lead to future studies and investigations. A meta-analysis combines the statistical content of multiple studies in order to indicate some sense of the general outlook on the relationship between the predictor and criterion (outcome) variables.
After a variety of statistical analyses and inclusion and exclusion criteria, the psychologists found that we-talk is strongly indicative of relationship functioning. Partner effects predicted health behaviors and relationship outcomes.
This meta-analytic study seems to be conducted well and draw more attention to the outcomes of we-talk. Though it would have been more comprehensive to have an inclusion and exclusion criteria from a specific meta-analytic database, the fact that there is not much research on the subject matter provides confidence to their methodological steps.
It is also good to see that the authors include several limitations as to why they were not able to make this study more robust, but even with those limitations, there analyses still seem to show, if not lean, in the same positive direction.
Previous studies have mentioned gender differences, where women often elicit more we-talk and inclusivity, but feel some sense of disconnection in periods of stress. But this current encompassing study, does not seem to significantly offer that same take. The investigators highlight how some past studies concentrated on the internalization of interdependence, while this study concentrated on the externalization of interdependence.
It would have been interesting to look at how we-talk may cause someone to lose their sense of independence and personal growth, since society seems to disavow relationships with a heavy dependence on each other as clingy and over-attached.
Overall though, this study seems to advocate for the practice of we-talk for relationships to endure and be sustainable. WE should look more into this.