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Linking Economic Hardship to Marital Quality Instability


Conger, Rand D.; Elder, Glen H., Jr.; Lorenz, Frederick O.; Conger, Katherine Jewsbury; Simons, Ronald L.; Whitbeck, Les B.; Huck, Shirley; & Melby, Janet N. (1990). Linking Economic Hardship to Marital Quality Instability. Journal of Marriage and The Family, 52, 643-56.


Utilizing a sample of 76 white, middle-class couples from a rural midwestern county, this study examined two central propositions: (a) the negative impact of economic hardship on a spouse's marital quality (happiness/satisfaction) or marital instability (thoughts or actions related to divorce) is in part a function of its influence on the affective quality of marital interactions, and (b) this process is particularly applicable to the hostile, irritable response of men to financial difficulties. A series of analyses supported these propositions. Economic pressures had an indirect association with married couples' evaluation of the marriage by promoting hostility in marital interactions and curtailing the warm and supportive behaviors spouses express toward one another. The hypothesized process was most pronounced for husbands, whose behavior was more strongly associated with economic problems than wives' behavior. Findings from the study are consistent with previous research that identifies negative affect as a principal behavioral correlate of marital distress; however, the results also suggest that more research needs to be done on the role of warmth and supportiveness in promoting marital quality. Limitations of the research and future research directions are discussed.


Reference Type

Journal Article

Journal Title

Journal of Marriage and The Family


Conger, Rand D.
Elder, Glen H., Jr.
Lorenz, Frederick O.
Conger, Katherine Jewsbury
Simons, Ronald L.
Whitbeck, Les B.
Huck, Shirley
Melby, Janet N.

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