Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Christianity

Marital Satisfaction among Christian Missionaries: A Longitudinal Analysis from Candidacy to Second Furlough

Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Christianity

Marital Satisfaction among Christian Missionaries: A Longitudinal Analysis from Candidacy to Second Furlough

Article excerpt

The present study followed the marital functioning of 28 missionary couples from candidacy to their second furlough. At three points of assessment, each missionary completed the Marital Satisfaction Inventory (Snyder, 1979), which assessed test-taking approach as well as ten dimensions of marital functioning. Repeated measures Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) revealed that significant changes toward less satisfaction in several dimensions of missionary marital satisfaction occurred between candidacy and first furlough, but not between first and second furloughs. Few gender differences were discovered, suggesting that missionary experience did not appear to differentially impact the marital satisfaction of husbands and wives over time. Finally, the results suggest that member care services need to be targeted to missionaries in their first term, especially those who are entering into parenthood and/or raising young children.

Maintaining a healthy marriage is of enormous importance for missionary effectiveness (Sweatman, 1999). Because missionary couples are adapting to a completely new culture and lifestyle, spouses are the primary and sometimes sole source of emotional support for one another. The best way to comprehend how missionary marriages evolve is to study them longitudinally. By identifying changes that occur in these marriages over time, mental health and pastoral professionals (identified as "member care" providers in this literature) may be able to recognize potential periods of crisis and offer additional help during these times.

Longitudinal Findings on Marital Satisfaction

There is a clear dearth of longitudinal data on missionary marriages. However, there have been longitudinal studies conducted with married couples who are not missionaries to measure their level of satisfaction with the marriage over the life span. A prominent line of study has employed the family life cycle theory to measure how marriage satisfaction changes over time (Burr, 1970; Olson, McCubbin, Barnes, & Larsen, 1983). The family life cycle theory assumes that families, like individuals, have predictable stages through which they progress (Miller, 2001). Research by Olson and colleagues (1983) indicated that marriage satisfaction starts decreasing at the beginning of the marriage, and reaches its lowest point when the child is in his/her teen years. After children have left home, marriage satisfaction increases significantly. Studies of this kind have been criticized for including only couples with children, which leaves them vulnerable to the accusation that they give a wrong impression of marriage satisfaction. In fact, Olson and colleagues acknowledged that the range of marital satisfaction ratings tends to be narrow.

Umberson, Williams and Powers (2005) considered age, marital duration and parental status to observe their effect upon marital change. They found that marital quality tends to decline over time. A number of life course factors may serve to accelerate or slow the rate of decline in marital quality over time. The findings suggested that parenting may result in lower satisfaction in the marriages of younger couples, greater satisfaction later in life, and a more modest effect in mid-life.

Berry and Williams (1987) looked at the relationship between quality of life and marital and income satisfaction, discovering different results for husbands and wives. For husbands, the number of years married was the major variable associated with disagreement over family financial expenditures. As the years of marriage increased, the intensity of disagreement declined. In addition, the number of years married was negatively related to satisfaction with quality of life. These authors also discovered that among women, satisfaction with both spouse and income contributed to their overall satisfaction with life.

Johnson, Amoloza and Booth (1992), interviewed married persons from a national sample three times during an eight-year period and found that marital quality was stable over time. …

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