Gender-related influences on marital satisfaction and marital conflict over time for husbands and wives
Faulkner, Rhonda A
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With approximately one half of first-time marriages ending in divorce (Faust & McKibben, 1999) and approximately 33 percent of all first-time marriages disrupting in separation or divorce in the first ten years (Bramlett & Mosher, 2001), many individuals could experience physical and psychological health problems which have been linked to separation and divorce (Goodwin, 1997; Hibbard & Pope, 1993; Prigerson, Maciejewski, & Rosenheck, 1999). Given that marriage is often followed by marital disruption, an understanding of how marriage changes and develops over time and specifically what are the characteristics of marriages that succeed over time are salient issues needing to be explored (Kurdek, 1998). Longitudinal secondary data for husbands and wives from first time marriages were analyzed from the National Survey of Families and Households (Sweet, Bumpass, & Call, 1988), for the purpose of examining influences on husbands’ and wives’ marital satisfaction and marital conflict over time. This study addressed the limitations of previous studies by examining longitudinal influences on marital satisfaction and marital conflict. It also extended the line of thinking of previous research, which examined influences on marital dissolution, by taking a longitudinal look at predictors of marital satisfaction and marital conflict in stable marriages. Husbands and wives initial levels of marital satisfaction and marital conflict are predictive of subsequent relational satisfaction and conflict. Significant demographic, psychological, marital process, gender-related, and life transitional influences on models of marital satisfaction and marital conflict for husbands and for wives over time are presented. There is some support for gender-based influences on husbands and wives marital satisfaction and conflict. Additionally, there is some support to suggest that wives’ marital and interpersonal functioning may be a greater predictor for husbands’ marital satisfaction and marital conflict. Previously, studies have largely ignored the role of gender in the examination of marital quality. The distinction and clarification of misconceptions between the terms "sex" and "gender" were addressed by measuring the ways in which gender influences marital satisfaction and marital conflict over time. Recommendations for clinicians are presented.