Changes in Spousal Relationships over the Marital Life Course
This chapter uses six waves of data from the Marital Instability Over the Life Course study to examine long-term trends in three aspects of spousal relationships: marital happiness, shared activities, and discord (n = 1617). Across the full sample, happiness declined gradually during the first 20 years of marriage and then stabilized. Participation in shared activities declined during the first 20 years of marriage and then increased, whereas discord declined continuously. These trends depended, however, on whether marriages ended in divorce. Overall, and contrary to some prior studies, our results suggest that marriages that remain together show little evidence of deterioration in relationship quality over the marital life course. Nevertheless, period effects were apparent, with marital relationships (irrespective of duration) becoming more troubled during the 1980s and 1990s but rebounding in 2000.
KeywordsMarriage Happiness Divorce Period effects Relationship quality Life course Shared activities
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