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John Mordecai Gottman
April 26, 1942
|Known for||Cascade Model of Relational Dissolution|
|Spouse(s)||Julie Schwartz Gottman|
|Notable works||The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work|
John Mordecai Gottman (born April 26, 1942) is an American psychological researcher and clinician who did extensive work over four decades on divorce prediction and marital stability. He is also an award-winning speaker, author, and a professor emeritus in psychology. He is known for his work on marital stability and relationship analysis through scientific direct observations, many of which were published in peer-reviewed literature. The lessons derived from this work represent a partial basis for the relationship counseling movement that aims to improve relationship functioning and the avoidance of those behaviors shown by Gottman and other researchers to harm human relationships. His work has also had a major impact on the development of important concepts on social sequence analysis. Gottman is a professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Washington. He and his wife, psychologist Julie Schwartz Gottman, co-founded and lead a relationship company and therapist training entity called The Gottman Institute. The website for The Gottman Institute can be accessed at "gottman.com." He and his wife have also co-founded Affective Software Inc., which is a program designed to make marriage and relationship counseling methods and resources available to a larger audience.
Gottman was recognized in 2007 as one of the 10 most influential therapists of the past quarter century. "Gottman's research showed that it wasn't only how couples fought that mattered, but how they made up. Marriages became stable over time if couples learned to reconcile successfully after a fight."
John Gottman was born on April 26, 1942 in the Dominican Republic to Orthodox Jewish parents. His father was a rabbi in pre-WWII Vienna. John was educated in a Lubavitch yeshiva elementary school in Brooklyn, and he observes kosher, which is Jewish law regarding foods, and the Sabbath, which is a day dedicated to religious worship and rest.
The couple currently live in Washington state.
Education and work experience
John Gottman received his bachelor's degree in Mathematics-Physics from Fairleigh Dickinson University in 1962. In 1964, Gottman earned his master's in Mathematics-Psychology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He received a M.A. in Clinical Psychology-Mathematics in 1967 and his Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology in 1971 from the University of Wisconsin.
At Fairleigh Dickinson University, Gottman worked as an instructor for the mathematics department, a research assistant for the department of physics, and as researcher for the school of engineering. At the Lawrence Radiation Laboratory, he worked as a computer programmer and mathematician. He was a program evaluator and research designer for the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. Gottman became a professor of psychology in 1981 for the University of Illinois. Additionally, he was professor of psychology at the University of Washington, Seattle for 16 years. From 2002 until today, Gottman works as the Emeritus Professor of Psychology for the University of Washington and as the Executive Director for the Relationship Research Institute in Seattle. As well, he, alongside his wife, is the co-founder of The Gottman Institute.
Predictions of divorce
Gottman developed multiple models, scales, and formulas to predict marital stability and divorce in couples. He has completed seven studies in this field. Some of Gottman's most popular work comes from his research regarding newlywed couples.
This work concludes that there are four negative behaviors that are most likely to lead to and therefore predict divorce. These are criticism of a partner's personality, contempt, which is usually derived from a position of superiority, defensiveness, and stonewalling, which is displayed through emotional withdrawal from interactions. Defensiveness, Stonewalling, criticism, and contempt are considered to be the four horsemen of destructive behavior. Typically, these are actions made as a result of feeling overwhelmed by criticism coming at them from their partner.
Stable couples handle conflict in gentle, positive ways, and are supportive of each other. In Gottman's book Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work he addresses some standard tools that these couples implement to stay together, from taking the time to continue building a friendship with their spouse, to honoring and respecting their spouse.
He developed the Gottman Method Couple's Therapy based on his research findings. The form of therapy aims to increase respect, affection, and closeness, break through and resolve conflict, generate greater understandings, and keep conflict discussions calm. The goal of The Gottman Method is to help couples build happy and stable marriages.
Gottman's therapy model focuses more on the process of conflict within the marriage, and less on the content of the conflict. His research is longitudinal, meaning that he gathers data on the couples over several years.
John Gottman conducted a study based on oral interviews with 95 newlywed couples. His predictions are based on perceived marital bonds. Couples were asked about their relationship, mutual history, and philosophy towards marriage. The interview measured the couple's perceptions of shared history and marriage by focusing on the positive or negative qualities of the relationship expressed in the telling of the story. To measure each spouse’s perception about the marriage and each other, the interviewer listened to the couple’s negative or positive experiences. Rather than scoring the content of their answers, interviewers used the Oral History Interview coding system, developed by Buehlman and Gottman in 1996, to measure spouses' perceptions about the marriage and each other. Therefore, the couples' perception was used to predict whether they would gain marital stability or end up divorced. The more positive their perceptions and attitudes were about their marriage and each other, the more stable the marriage.
John Gottman’s models partly rely on Paul Ekman's method of analyzing human emotion and microexpressions. Kerman’s research was primarily based on observing the micro-expressions to determine whether somebody was lying or telling the truth.
The original study was published by Gottman and Christopher Buehlman in 1992, in which they interviewed couples with children. A posteriori modeling yielded a discriminant function that could discern those who had divorced with 94% accuracy.  Since Gottman believed that early married life is a period of adjustment, and perceptions are being formed, he sought to predict marital stability and divorce through couples' perceptions during the first year of marriage.
In 1998, Gottman developed a model to predict which newlywed couples would remain married and which would divorce four to six years later. The model fits the data with 90% accuracy. Another model from Gottman can determine with 81% accuracy which marriages survived after seven to nine years.
Gottman's follow-up study with newlywed couples, published in 2000, used the Oral History Interview to predict marital stability and divorce. Gottman's model fit with 87.4% accuracy for classifying couples who divorce (or not) within the couples' first five years of marriage. He used couples' perceptions about their marriages and each other to model marital stability or divorce.
In a 2002 paper, Gottman and Robert W. Levenson perform a regression analysis of a two-factor model where skin conductance levels and oral history narratives encodings are the only two statistically significant variables. Facial expressions using Ekman's encoding scheme were not statistically significant.
Independent studies testing Gottman marriage courses
Building Strong Families Program
Independent research on the impact of Gottman's marriage strengthening programs for the general public has further questioned Gottman couple education programs.
The largest independent evaluation of a marriage education curriculum developed by Gottman was conducted by Mathematica Policy Research at nine sites in five states. The study was titled, "Loving Couples, Loving Children," and was a federally funded, multi-year Building Strong Families Program study contracted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families. The study group included low-income, unwed couples.
An impact report released by the Office of Planning Research and Evaluation showed that the intervention had no positive impact and, in one case, "had negative effects on couples' relationships."
Supporting Healthy Marriage Project
An ongoing study by Manpower Development Research Corporation (MDRC), known as the Supporting Healthy Marriage Project (SHM), is evaluating Gottman's "Loving Couples, Loving Children" program among low-income, married couples. The multi-year, random assignment study is funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families. In an early impact study on the effectiveness of "skills-based relationship education programs designed to help low-income married couples strengthen their relationships and, in turn, to support more stable and more nurturing home environments and more positive outcomes for parents and their children," MDRC reported  "Overall, the program has shown some small positive effects, without clear indications (yet no clear negative proof) for improving the odds to stay together after 12 months."
The program is still ongoing.
Matthews, Wickrama and Conger
A study published by Matthews, Wickrama and Conger, based on couples' perceptions, was done in 1996. The study showed that spousal hostility and net of warmth predicted, with 80% accuracy, which couples would divorce or not divorce within a year.
Relations and effects
In multiple analyses, Gottman has shown a plethora of relations and effects in marriage and divorce, some in peer-reviewed publications, while many others appear in Gottman's own books. Among those are
- The physical elements in marital conflict (i.e., physical effects are central to the inability to think, etc., in conflict situations) for which he advises a 20-minute cooling period or physical relaxation.
- The effects of "bids for connection." That is the smallest bids people do to connect and how the other reacts. For example, happy couples do have many more "bids for connection" when together, and much more "turn towards" response, and much, much fewer "turn away" - the most negative reaction. The book dedicated to this element is "The Relationship Cure."
- The concept of "trust," which Gottman defines as having each other's backs.
- The neutral effect provides a way out of negative interactions as most interactions do not transition directly from negative to positive. The degree of neutral effect is often overlooked as a predictor of relationship success due to the very fact that the neutral effect is simply neutral.
- The dynamic to cause divorce in the short term is different from that causing divorce later. Early divorce is characterized by the "four horsemen" of bad fighting, whereas later divorce is characterized by lower positive affect in earlier stages of the relationship.
- Anger is not always bad for relationships. Happy couples are as frequently angry as unhappy couples. It seems that how people react to anger and how destructive they get is the crucial factor rather than the frequency of anger or fights. Gottman even says that anger is functional in marriage. The reason for anger being functional is because there is a reason behind the anger. Gottman describes anger like this as an iceberg where the raw feelings cannot be seen. Anger is what is emerging from these raw emotions.
- 69% of happy couples still have *the very same* unresolved conflicts after 10 years, yet remain happy because they do not get gridlocked in the conflict and manage to get around it.
Cascade Model of Relational Dissolution
Gottman's Cascade Model of Relational Dissolution states that there are four major emotional reactions that are destructive and thus are the four predictors to a divorce: criticism, defensiveness, stonewalling, and contempt. Gottman calls these four predictors of divorce the “four horsemen” of marriage because they herald trouble for a marriage. They are a part of the Cascade Model of Relational Dissolution because they build upon each other. One behavior leads to the next, resulting in more hostility and less communication in a relationship, ultimately, leading to emotional separation and dissolution of the marriage.
The first indication of the cascade model is criticism. Criticism is an attack on a person's character or personality. One way to differentiate between a criticism and a complaint is in the way the statement begins. Relationships that tend to stay together begin conversations like these in what Gottman describes as a soft startup, or a tactful, respectful way of speaking, rather than in a harsh startup, which typically incorporates broad absolute statements such as “you always…” or “you never…” Couples whose relationship tends to be more negative engage in criticism of one another more frequently. Frequent critiques and attacks relating to this tier can lead to other behaviors that are set out in the cascade model.
Defensiveness, the second tier of the cascade model is a response to pathological criticism. A partner in this phase will attempt to make excuses or even shift blame from themselves to their partner. This phase of the cascade model can also cause their partner to feel that they are not taking their concerns seriously or that they are avoiding responsibility. This is characterized by a deflection of criticism and an avoidance of responsibility. Counter attacks and criticism of one’s partner are characteristic of defensiveness.
The third tier of the cascade model is contempt which is derived from a mentality of superiority. Pathological criticism of one another and responding to this criticism with defensive behaviors can lead to contempt. Contempt results from a lack of respect or acknowledgement. Contempt may include sarcasm, cynicism, name calling, eye rolling, mockery, or hostile humor. A general indignation and lack of respect characterizes interaction in this phase of the cascade.
Stonewalling is the final tier of the cascade model and is a response to the first three tiers. It is characterized by the building up of mental and physical barriers to avoid interaction with one another. An attempt to appear busy or other means of purposely avoiding contact are employed and very little communication takes place. Communication that does take place is not meaningful and can often be destructive.
Typically, people will stonewall someone when they are feeling overwhelmed physically or psychologically. It can be an instinctive protection mechanism. When the individual is flooded with these emotions and stimuli, they may choose to disengage rather than confront in hopes of avoiding a fight.
The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work
In The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, his most popular book, Gottman discusses behaviors that he observed in marriages that are successful and those that are detrimental to marriage, based on research conducted at his "Love Lab" in Seattle, Washington. He outlines seven principles that will reinforce the positive aspects of a relationship and help marriages endure during the rough moments. These principles include, enhancing your love map (a term Gottman uses to describe the center of a person’s brain where they store relevant information about their partner), nurturing your fondness and admiration, turning towards each other rather than away, letting your partner influence you, solving solvable problems, overcoming gridlock, and creating a shared meaning.
The following is a partial list of methods and practices developed by Gottman and his wife for marriage and child-rearing:
The Gottman Institute certifies new therapists regularly. Three levels of professional training are generally delivered through intensive two-day seminars or through at-home or online study to train therapists in Gottman Method Couples Therapy:
- Learn to integrate research-based methods and inspire transformation in your work with couples.
- Identify the communication patterns, friendship basis, and conflict management dynamics that characterize enduring intimate relationships.
- Discover a roadmap for helping couples to compassionately manage their conflicts, deepen their friendship and intimacy, and share their life purpose and dreams.
Bringing Baby Home is a two-day seminar to help prepare would-be parents to a new baby, using 18 exercises and other tricks. In a peer-reviewed paper, Gottman shows that for a randomly controlled (but not blinded) experiment, couples attending the workshop were tremendously better off later, as follows: Without the workshop, 70% of couples had lower marital satisfaction relative to before birth (a common finding); 58% of mothers had some symptoms of depression after giving birth. For mothers who participated in the workshop, only 22% of mothers had depressive symptoms.
Gottman has authored and co-authored over 40 books for a general audience, with research-backed advice for improving marriages, raising emotionally intelligent children, and on how to bring a new baby home without damaging the relationship. His most famous self-help book, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country's Foremost Relationship Expert, is widely regarded as both powerful and practical. 
The Gottman Method of Relationship Therapy
The Gottman Method is a therapy approach which focuses on supporting and strengthening couples by utilizing Gottman’s research and his theory which is referred to as The Sound Relationship House. This theory consists of nine components.
- Building love maps - This refers to enhancing how well one knows their partner.
- Nurturing fondness and admiration in the relationship.
- Turning towards each other - This involves being aware of a partner’s needs and responding to their bids for connection.
- Creating a positive perspective - This is when the couple looks for the best in each other rather than rushing to criticism.
- Managing conflict - Managing conflict is when you take into consideration your partner’s feelings and emotions. Another aspect of conflict management is continual dialogue to ensure resolution. When feeling heated during arguments, it is important to self-soothe by doing something to get your mind off the issue at hand.
- Making life dreams come true - It is important to be with someone who is trying to inspire you to reach your goals.
- creating shared meaning - This is when couples start to have rituals, traditions, and symbols that you share together.
- Weight-bearing wall - Cultivating trust in the relationship.
- Weight-bearing wall - Cultivating commitment in the relationship. 
Therapists can receive certification in Gottman Method Couples Therapy. 
Awards and honors
Gottman has been the recipient of four National Institute of Mental Health Research Scientist Awards; the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy Distinguished Research Scientist Award, the American Family Therapy Academy Award for Most Distinguished Contributor to Family Systems Research, the American Psychological Association Division of Family Psychology, Presidential Citation for Outstanding Lifetime Research Contribution and the National Council of Family Relations, 1994 Burgess Award for Outstanding Career in Theory and Research. In addition, Gottman takes a spot in the Psychotherapy Networker's Top 10 Most Influential Therapists of the past quarter-century. 
Gottman has published over 190 papers, and is the author or co-author of 40 books, notably:
- Nan Silver; Gottman, John (1994). Why Marriages Succeed or Fail: What You Can Learn from the Breakthrough Research to Make Your Marriage Last. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-0-671-86748-5.
- Joan Declaire; Gottman, John (1997). The Heart of Parenting: How to Raise an Emotionally Intelligent Child. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-0-684-80130-8.
- The Marriage Clinic (W.W. Norton, 1999), W W Norton page
- Nan Silver; Gottman, John (1999). The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. New York: Three Rivers Press. ISBN 978-0-609-80579-4. – a New York Times bestseller
- Gottman, John; Joan Declaire (2001). The Relationship Cure: A Five-Step Guide for Building Better Connections with Family, Friends, and Lovers. New York: Crown Publishers. ISBN 978-0-609-60809-8.
- Anne Gartlan; Julie Schwartz Gottman; Joan Declaire (2006). Ten Lessons to Transform Your Marriage: America's Love Lab Experts Share Their Strategies for Strengthening Your Relationship. Random House Audio. ISBN 978-0-7393-3237-5.
- Julie Schwartz Gottman; Gottman, John (2008). And Baby Makes Three: The Six-Step Plan for Preserving Marital Intimacy and Rekindling Romance After Baby Arrives. New York: Three Rivers Press. ISBN 978-1-4000-9738-8.
- Gottman, John (2011). The Science of Trust: Emotional Attunement for Couples. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 978-0-393-70595-9.
- Gottman, John; Silver, Nan (2012). What Makes Love Last. New York: Simon & Schuster. p. 305. ISBN 978-1451608489.
- Gottman, John; Gottman, Julie Schwartz (2015). 10 Principles for Doing Effective Couples Therapy. New York: W.W. Norton & Company. ISBN 978-0393708356
- Gottman, John; Gottman, Julie Schwartz; Abrams, Douglas; Abrams, Rachel Carlton (2016). The Man's Guide to Women. New York: Rodale. ISBN 978-1-62336-184-6.
- Gottman, John; Gottman, Julie Schwartz (2018). The Science of Couples and Family Therapy: Behind the Scenes at the "Love Lab". New York: W.W. Norton & Company. ISBN 978-0393712742.
- Gottman, John (2019). Eight Dates: to keep your relationship happy, thriving and lasting. ISBN 0241988357.
- The Gottman Institute. Online Abstracts of Published Research Articles. Accessed online 14 October 2008.
- John Gottman. John Gottman, Ph.D., Licensed Clinical Psychologist Archived 2009-02-26 at the Wayback Machine. Accessed online 14 October 2008.
- "Affective Software, Inc". affectivesoftware.com. Retrieved 2021-07-07.
- "The Top 10: The Most Influential Therapists of the Past Quarter-Century". Psychotherapy Networker. 2007. Retrieved 2012-07-10.
- Weinstein, Natalie (30 May 1997), "Do you want to raise a mensch? Psychology researcher tells how", The Jewish Bulletin of Northern California
- "Gottman Rite Held". Wisconsin State Journal (p.2, section 5). 14 February 1971.
- Gottman, John M. (1999). The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. Harmony; 1st edition. pp. Dedication page. ISBN 978-0609805794.
- "John & Julie Gottman - About". The Gottman Institute. Retrieved 2020-11-04.
- "How Dr. Gottman Can Predict Divorce (with 94% Accuracy)". The Gottman Relationship Institute.
- Mann, Jeff (2015-09-10). "Scientists say this facial expression can kill a relationship". Brain Fodder. Retrieved 2021-07-01.
- "Research FAQs". The Gottman Relationship Institute. Retrieved 21 March 2012.
- "What is Gottman Method Couples Therapy?". The Gottman Research Institute. Retrieved 21 March 2012.
- Buehlman, K.T., Gottman, John (1996). The Oral History Coding System.(In J. Gottman (Ed.), What predicts divorce? The measures. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
- "Microexpressions: A Universal Language You Wear on Your Face". Orlando Science Center. 2020-04-29. Retrieved 2021-07-01.
- Buehlman, K. T.; Gottman, John; Katz, L. F. (1992). "How a couple views their past predicts their future: Predicting divorce from an oral history interview". Journal of Family Psychology. 5 (3–4): 295–318. doi:10.1037/0893-3200.5.3-4.295.
- Carrere, S.; Buehlman, K. T.; Gottman, J. M.; Coan, J. A.; Ruckstuhl, L. (2000). "Predicting marital stability and divorce in newlywed couples". Journal of Family Psychology. 14 (1): 42–58. CiteSeerX 10.1.1.514.2214. doi:10.1037/0893-318.104.22.168. PMID 10740681.
- Gottman, John (2003). The Mathematics of Marriage. MIT Press. ISBN 978-0-262-07226-7. Archived from the original on 2009-02-27. Retrieved 2008-10-14.
- Gottman, JM; Levenson, RW (2002). "A two-factor model for predicting when a couple will divorce: exploratory analyses using 14-year longitudinal data". Fam Process. 41 (1): 83–96. doi:10.1111/j.1545-5300.2002.40102000083.x. PMID 11924092.
- "Family Support Policy Research". Mathematica.
- "Resources for Couples | The Gottman Institute".
-  U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation.
- Building Strong Families Program Impact Report, Mathematica Policy Research, May 2010.
- "MDRC". MDRC.
- Knox, Virginia, et al. "Early Impacts from the Supporting Healthy Marriage Evaluation," MDRC, New York, NY, March 2012.
- Matthews, Lisa S.; K. A. S. Wickrama; Rand D. Conger (August 1996). "Predicting Marital Instability from Spouse and Observer Reports of Marital Interaction". Journal of Marriage and Family. 58 (3): 641–655. doi:10.2307/353725. JSTOR 353725.
- The Marriage Clinic, John Gottman, 1994
- The Science of Trust, John Gottman, 2011
- "The Anger Iceberg". The Gottman Institute. 2016-11-08. Retrieved 2021-07-01.
- The Marriage Clinic, John Gottman, 1994
- Handbook of interpersonal communication. Knapp, Mark L., Daly, John A. (John Augustine), 1952- (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications. 2002. ISBN 978-0761921608. OCLC 49942207.CS1 maint: others (link)
- "The Four Horsemen: Criticism, Contempt, Defensiveness, & Stonewalling". The Gottman Institute. 2013-04-24. Retrieved 2021-07-01.
- Gottman, John; Silver, Nan (1999). The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. Three Rivers Press. ISBN 978-0609805794.
- "Research-based couples therapy training for individuals and groups," The Gottman Relationship Institute website, retrieved November 26, 2012. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-11-23. Retrieved 2012-11-26.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- Shapiro, Alyson F.; Gottman, John M. (January 2005). "Effects on Marriage of a Psycho-Communicative-Educational Intervention With Couples Undergoing the Transition to Parenthood, Evaluation at 1-Year Post Intervention". Journal of Family Communication. 5 (1): 1–24. doi:10.1207/s15327698jfc0501_1. ISSN 1526-7431. S2CID 55596629.
- "John M. Gottman". www.goodreads.com. Retrieved 2020-08-22.
- "Independents/Chain Bestseller List". archive.nytimes.com. Retrieved 2021-03-09.
- Van Zutphen, Neal (2016-12-31). "Book Review: The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work". Journal of Financial Therapy. 7 (2). doi:10.4148/1944-9771.1141. ISSN 1944-9771.
- "What is The Sound Relationship House?". The Gottman Institute. 2020-11-30. Retrieved 2021-07-02.
- "The Gottman Method - About". The Gottman Institute. Retrieved 2020-11-04.
- American Family Therapy Academy website
- "Home | National Council on Family Relations". www.ncfr.org.
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- "John & Julie Gottman - About". The Gottman Institute. Retrieved 2020-11-04.
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