Journal of African American Studies

, Volume 17, Issue 3, pp 290-307

First online:

Marital Well-Being Over Time Among Black and White Americans: The First Seven Years

  • Edna BrownAffiliated withDepartment of Human Development and Family Studies, University of Connecticut Email author 
  • , Terri L. OrbuchAffiliated withInstitute for Social Research, University of MichiganDepartment of Sociology, Oakland University
  • , José A. BauermeisterAffiliated withDepartment of Health Behavior and Health Education, University of Michigan
  • , Brandyn-Dior McKinleyAffiliated withDepartment of Human Development and Family Studies, University of Connecticut

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We examined patterns of marital well-being over the first 7 years of marriage and whether factors connected to early marital well-being during year 1 impacted marital well-being over time. Data were collected as part of a longitudinal panel study following 199 Black American and 174 White American during the first 7 years of marriage. Multilevel growth curve modeling revealed that race, income, and premarital child affected husbands’ marital well-being in year 1. Education, wives’ employment status, and divorced parents influenced wives’ marital well-being at year 1. After accounting for differences in these early marital conditions, having a child before marriage was significant in predicting the rates of change over time for husbands. Divorced parents affected the rate of change in marital well-being for wives. The findings suggest that as couples settle into their marriages, risk factors have fewer consequences on marital well-being.


Race Black Americans Gender Marriage Longitudinal research Marital well-being