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Financial Stressors as Catalysts for Relational Growth: Bonadaptation Among Lower-Income, Unmarried Couples


The FAAR model (Patterson in Fam Syst Med 6(2):202–237, 1988) posits that following a stressor, demands, capabilities, and meanings can contribute to bonadaptation (i.e., adaptation that promotes wellbeing). The purpose of the current study is to test how financial and relational demands, capabilities, and meanings are associated with relationship commitment and coparenting (i.e., bonadaptation) following a financial stressor. We used data from the Building Strong Families (BSF) sample (i.e., primarily lower-income, unmarried couples; N = 1396). First, results showed that predictors of coparenting were more numerous than predictors of commitment. Second, all facets of the FAAR model—demands, capabilities, and meanings—were evident as predictors of bonadaptation. Finally, comparing the results with the results of a previous paper (i.e., a nationally-representative sample of married couples; Dew et al. in J Fam Econ Issues 39(3):405–421, 2018), relationship maintenance behaviors and financial support were capabilities for both samples, whereas other capabilities and meanings were context-specific (e.g., relational support significant in Dew et al. sample but not BSF sample). These patterns suggest that although some of the avenues to bonadaptation may differ depending on the sample, it is possible for couples to thrive not just in spite of financial stressors but even because of them; that is, financial stressors can serve as catalysts for positive relational growth.

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Fig. 1


  1. Triangulating with some of the other variables in the sample suggested that participants were responding to this question more in the context of dedication, and not constraint, commitment (Dew et al. 2018; Stanley and Markman 1992).


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Funding was provided by Administration for Children and Families (Grant No. 90PD0287-01).

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Correspondence to Ashley B. LeBaron.

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Appendix document #1 correlations among key study variables and covariates.

Pearson correlation coefficients were estimated to gauge bivariate relationships between variables. As displayed in Appendix Table 6, all correlations were in expected directions; financial demands were negatively associated with bonadaptation; financial capabilities, relational capabilities, financial meanings, and relational meanings were positively associated with bonadaptation.

Table 6 Bivariate correlations among key study variables and covariates

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LeBaron, A.B., Curran, M.A., Li, X. et al. Financial Stressors as Catalysts for Relational Growth: Bonadaptation Among Lower-Income, Unmarried Couples. J Fam Econ Iss 41, 424–441 (2020).

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  • Bonadaptation
  • Commitment
  • Coparenting
  • Financial stress
  • FAAR model