Academic journal article Family Relations

Marital Satisfaction among African Americans and Black Caribbeans: Findings from the National Survey of American Life*

Academic journal article Family Relations

Marital Satisfaction among African Americans and Black Caribbeans: Findings from the National Survey of American Life*

Article excerpt


This study examines the correlates of marital satisfaction using data from a national probability sample of African Americans (N = 962) and Black Caribbeans (N = 560). Findings reveal differences between African Americans and Black Caribbeans, and men and women within those groups, in the predictors of marital satisfaction. Black Caribbean women reported overall higher levels of marital satisfaction than African American women. The findings amply demonstrate the significance of ethnic diversity within the Black population in the United States. Difficulties with finances (budgeting, credit issues, and debt management) are one of the key issues that generate conflict in marriages; stress generated as a result of financial problems can lower marital satisfaction. Because these issues are salient for couples at any given time in the family life cycle, counseling at critical points in the marriage (birth of children, launching of children from home, and retirement) may be helpful.

Key Words: African American, Caribbean families, marital quality, marital satisfaction, West Indians.

Over 80% of Americans will eventually marry at some point in their lives (U.S. Census Bureau, 2002). Reflecting the importance of this social institution, research on marriage and marital relationships enjoys a long and rich history in the areas of family studies and family demography (Cherlin, 2000). However, beyond the demographic information gleaned from Census reports, relatively little is known about marriage and marital relationships among Black Americans and even less about subcultural differences within them. The goal of the present study was to investigate the sociodemographic correlates of marital satisfaction among a national sample of Black adults, focusing in particular on distinctions and similarities between the two major subpopulations of African Americans and Black Caribbeans.

The focus on Black Caribbeans (Caribbean Blacks) is motivated by several important considerations. The first concerns the increasing size of this group and their growing proportion of the Black population in specific metropolitan areas (e.g., New York, Miami, Boston) and in the U.S. Black population overall. Between 1990 and 2000, the Black Caribbean population in the United States grew by nearly 67% (Logan & Deane, 2003). Presently, more than 1.5 million Blacks in this country are classified as Caribbean (Logan & Deane). The growth of the Black Caribbean population has surpassed that of established minorities such as Cubans and Koreans, whom Black Caribbeans now outnumber (Logan & Deane). The significant proportion of Black Caribbeans in the United States argues that their separate consideration as a major Black subgroup is warranted and needed.

Second, researchers have called attention to the issue of diversity within the Black population and its potential impact on a variety of outcomes of interest (Tucker & Mitchell-Kernan, 1995). In the present study, we argue that distinctive sociocultural contexts are important in explaining differences between ethnic groups within the Black population (i.e., African Americans, Black Caribbeans). Finally, the vast majority of social science research approaches the study of Black Americans as if they were a single, monolithic group. Empirical explorations of demographic variability, as well as the similarities and differences within and between subgroups of U.S. Blacks, provide important information about sociodemographic and cultural diversity within this population that is consequential for a variety of social and health outcomes.

The present study of the sociodemographic correlates of marital satisfaction among African American and Black Caribbean adults in the United States seeks to (a) determine overall levels of marital satisfaction within these two groups, with an emphasis on possible ethnic group differences in expressed satisfaction, (b) explore how sociodemographic factors and marital characteristics are associated with reported satisfaction with marriage within African American and Black Caribbean adults, and (c) examine whether and in what ways the correlates of marital satisfaction differ for women and men in these two groups. …

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