Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

His and Hers: Economic Factors and Relationship Quality in Germany

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

His and Hers: Economic Factors and Relationship Quality in Germany

Article excerpt

Economic circumstances and romantic relation- ship quality are interrelated in adults' lives. Economic well-being predicts entry into roman- tic relationships (McLaughlin, Lichter, & John- ston, 1993; Oppenheimer, 1988; Oppenheimer, Kalmijn, & Lim, 1997; Sweeney, 2002), whereas union formation can improve both partners' eco- nomic stability. Once formed, the quality of these relationships plays a significant role in emotional well-being and physical health (Kamp Dush, Taylor, & Kroeger, 2008; Proulx, Helms, & Buehler, 2007; Wickrama & Elder, 1997), which can produce economic returns. Finally, research has demonstrated that economic strain is associated with lower relationship quality among couples (Benson, Fox, DeMaris, & Van Wyk,2003;Congeret al.,1990;Conger,Conger, & Martin, 2010; Conger & Elder, 1994; Conger, Rueter, & Elder, 1999; Fox & Chancey, 1998; Hardie & Lucas, 2010; Robila & Krishnakumar, 2005; White & Rogers, 2000).

However, research on the relationship between economic factors and relationship qual- ity has been based primarily on cross-sectional data from the United States. Considerably less research has examined the association between economic factors and romantic relationship quality in other settings and over time. Studies of relationship dynamics often tacitly assume that findings apply cross-nationally. A growing body of comparative family literature (e.g., Cooke & Gash, 2010; Liefbroer & Dourleijn, 2006; Misra, Moller, & Budig, 2007), however, has underscored the need for testing theories in multiple contexts. In this study, we examined how financial circumstances are associated with relationship satisfaction among German couples over time. No research to date has investigated associations between economic factors and relationship quality for couples in Germany, and few studies have examined the longitudi- nal association between changes in economic well-being and changes in relationship quality in any setting.

Germany presents a particularly interesting context in which to examine this association. German tax and welfare policies protect cou- ples from economic hardship stemming from job loss (DiPrete & McManus, 2000; Gangl, 2004), unlike in the United States, where economic mobility is relatively fluid (DiPrete, 2002). In Germany, partners can rely on social benefits in response to job loss or other negative life events. German couples' relationship quality may there- fore not be very sensitive to financial pressures resulting from fluctuations in employment and family income. Both Germany's family-centered social welfare policies and gender ideology pro- mote a male-breadwinner model (Alwin, Braun, & Scott, 1992; DiPrete & McManus, 2000), however, in which women face greater economic risk from divorce and single parenthood than men do. To the extent that these policies dis- courage divorce in Germany (Misra et al., 2007), we may be able to see declines in relationship quality following economic events, in contrast to other countries, where such fluctuations would likely be followed by a divorce or separation.

This study addresses gaps in the litera- ture because we used two waves of the Panel Analysis of Intimate Relationships and Family Dynamics (PAIRFAM; http://www.pairfam. de/en/study.html) data set to examine the asso- ciation between economic well-being and hardship and cohabiting and married couples' relationship satisfaction in Germany. PAIRFAM data include comprehensive information on household and partners' income and employ- ment statuses (Huinink et al., 2011). Both the data and the setting offer new opportunities to study this topic and allowed us to make several important contributions to the literature on eco- nomic well-being and romantic relationships. First, we used the case of Germany to examine whether the association between economic well-being and romantic relationship quality is supported in a context of generous social welfare and pro-family policies. …

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