Quality of Marriage Remains Steady

Article excerpt

Despite major economic and social changes, the overall quality of marriage in the United States has not changed in the last 20 years, according to Perm State researchers.

"People are as happily married now as they were 20 years ago, but they also are just as divorce prone," said Alan Booth, distinguished professor of sociology, human development and family studies and demography. "While we identified a number of specific positive and negative features in marital quality, they balance off, resulting in little major change."

Dr. Booth and fellow researchers Paul R. Amato, professor of sociology and demography, David R. Johnson, professor of sociology, and Stacy J. Rogers, assistant professor of sociology, studied two national, probability samples of married individuals, one collected in 1980 and the other in 2000. Results of their research are published in a recent issue of the Journal of Marriage and Family.

The researchers examined three key indicators of marital quality:

* Marital happiness: happiness with 10 different aspects of marriage.

* Marital interaction: frequency of shared activities, such as eating their evening meal together, going shopping, and doing things together.

* Divorce proneness: thoughts or actions-thinking about divorce, talking with each other or a counselor, hiring an attorney, or a trial separation-thai may lead to a divorce.

"There were no major changes in marital happiness and divorce proneness, but we found a slight decline in marital interaction," Booth said. "And, there have been a number of important specific changes over the 20-year period."

One positive feature was what he describes as "a remarkable change" in the distribution of power, how equal the partners are in terms of influencing family decisions.

For men, there has been an increased amount of housework that has made women happy and men somewhat unhappy. Early research done by Dr. Booth indicates that men's displeasure with doing housework will wear off in the years to come. "It is not a long-term problem," he said.

One negative factor researchers identified was an increase in the extent to which people marry individuals different from themselves in terms of age and race. Although these marriages can be successful, these differences increase the likelihood that couples will encounter problems that result in declines in marital happiness and interaction.

Cohabitation before marriage, the researchers said, also appears to have negative effects on marital quality. …