To have and to hold

Kevin Lewis

October 21, 2012

Spousal Conflict and Divorce

Oleksandr Zhylyevskyy
Journal of Labor Economics, October 2012, Pages 915-962

The optimal balance between keeping marriages intact, despite spousal conflict, and allowing for divorce is a subject of policy debate in the United States. To explore the trade-offs, I construct a structural model with information asymmetries, which may generate inefficient outcomes. Parameters are estimated using data from the National Survey of Families and Households. I find that eliminating separation periods decreases the conflict rate by 9.2% of its baseline level and increases the divorce rate by 4.0%. Perfect child support enforcement decreases the frequency of conflict and divorce by 2.7% and 21.2%, respectively, and reduces the incidence of inefficient divorces.


Opposite-sex coworkers and marital infidelity

Masanori Kuroki
Economics Letters, January 2013, Pages 71-73

This paper examines if workplace sex ratios are associated with marital infidelity. I find that the likelihood of ever having been sexually unfaithful to a partner increases with a fraction of opposite-sex coworkers for men but not for women.


When TV and Marriage Meet: A Social Exchange Analysis of the Impact of Television Viewing on Marital Satisfaction and Commitment

Jeremy Osborn
Mass Communication and Society, September/October 2012, Pages 739-757

Although several studies have examined the association between television viewing and romantic relationships, differences in theoretical grounding, methodology, and findings have produced a picture that is decidedly unclear. Furthermore, past research has been directed primarily toward general relational attitudes and hypothetical relational behaviors without considering potential effects of viewing on existing, long-term relationships. This study sought to address these issues by drawing on the theoretical traditions of cultivation analysis, uses and gratifications, and social exchange theory to explore the associations among relationship variables and measures of both television viewing and belief in television portrayals by analyzing data collected from 392 married individuals. Results revealed that both heavier viewing of romantically themed programming and greater belief in television's portrayals of romantic relationships were associated with lower marital commitment, higher expected and perceived costs of marriage, and more favorable perceptions of alternatives to one's current relationship.


Adolescent Violent Victimization and Precocious Union Formation

Danielle Kuhl, David Warner & Andrew Wilczak
Criminology, forthcoming

This article bridges scholarship in criminology and family sociology by extending arguments about "precocious exits" from adolescence to consider early union formation as a salient outcome of violent victimization for youths. Research indicates that early union formation is associated with several negative outcomes; yet the absence of attention to union formation as a consequence of violent victimization is noteworthy. We address this gap by drawing on life course theory and data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health) to examine the effect of violent victimization ("street" violence) on the timing of first coresidential union formation - differentiating between marriage and cohabitation - in young adulthood. Estimates from Cox proportional hazard models show that adolescent victims of street violence experience higher rates of first union formation, especially marriage, early in the transition to adulthood; however, this effect declines with age, as such unions become more normative. Importantly, the effect of violent victimization on first union timing is robust to controls for nonviolent delinquency, substance abuse, and violent perpetration. We conclude by discussing directions for future research on the association between violent victimization and coresidential unions with an eye toward the implications of such early union formation for desistance.


Marriage, Cohabitation, and Happiness: A Cross-National Analysis of 27 Countries

Kristen Schultz Lee & Hiroshi Ono
Journal of Marriage and Family, October 2012, Pages 953-972

The authors investigated how the reported happiness of married and cohabiting individuals varies cross-nationally with societal gender beliefs and religious context. They used the 2002 International Social Survey Programme data from 27 countries (N = 36,889) and specified hierarchical linear models with macro - micro level interactions in order to examine how the social - institutional context affects happiness at the individual level. Consistent with previous research, they found a happiness gap between married and cohabiting persons. In the case of women, this gap was moderated by the gender climate and the religious context in the country. This suggests that, at least for women, this gap is not intractable but is rather an outcome of the social context. For men, the relationship between marital status and happiness was less variable across the different social contexts studied.


Female labor supply and divorce: New evidence from Ireland

Olivier Bargain et al.
European Economic Review, forthcoming

If participation in the labor market helps to secure women's outside options in the case of divorce/separation, an increase in the perceived risk of marital dissolution may accelerate the increase in female labor supply. This simple prediction has been tested in the literature using time and/or spatial variation in the US divorce legislation. In this paper, we suggest testing this hypothesis by exploiting a more radical policy change, i.e., the actual legalization of divorce. In Ireland, the right to divorce was introduced in 1996, followed by an acceleration of marriage breakdown rates. We use this fundamental change in Irish society as a natural experiment. Using families for whom the risk of marital dissolution is small as a control group, our difference-in-difference estimates suggest that the legalization of divorce contributed to a significant increase in female labor supply, occurring essentially at the extensive margin. Results are not driven by selection and are robust to numerous specification checks, including the introduction of household fixed effects and propensity score reweighting.


Business cycles and divorce: Evidence from microdata

Judith Hellerstein, Melinda Sandler Morrill & Ben Zou
Economics Letters, forthcoming

We use individual-level data to show that divorce is pro-cyclical on average, a finding robust to the inclusion of a wide range of controls. Pro-cyclical divorce is concentrated among women who married young and/or do not have a college degree.


Potential Negative Effects of Perspective-Taking Efforts in the Context of Close Relationships: Increased Bias and Reduced Satisfaction

Jacquie Vorauer & Tamara Sucharyna
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, forthcoming

Three experiments demonstrated that trying to appreciate a close other's unique point of view (imagine-other perspective taking) increases the extent to which individuals overestimate their own transparency to the close other, that is, how many of their values, preferences, traits, and feelings are readily apparent to him or her. Trying to be objective and pay careful attention to cues from a close other, which inhibits perspective taking, instead had the opposite effect. Mediation analyses suggested that increased focus on the self as an object of evaluation contributed to the positive effect of imagine-other perspective taking on perceived transparency, and decreased focus on the self as an object of evaluation contributed to the negative effect of trying to be objective on these judgments. These effects on perceived transparency had important implications for relationship well-being: Enhanced perceived transparency of negative feelings prompted by imagine-other perspective taking during a back-and-forth exchange with a romantic partner led to systematic discrepancies between individuals' own and their partner's experience of the exchange and reduced relationship satisfaction; trying to be objective instead reduced perceived transparency and thereby increased satisfaction. Notably, initial closeness with another person enhanced rather than tempered the egocentric effects of perspective taking. Taken together, these results suggest that positive motivations to nurture a close relationship and be sensitive to a loved one might sometimes be better channeled toward paying closer attention to his or her behavior than toward perspective taking.


Developmental Patterns in Marital Satisfaction: Another Look at Covenant Marriage

Alfred DeMaris, Laura Sanchez & Kristi Krivickas
Journal of Marriage and Family, October 2012, Pages 989-1004

This study investigated differences in the trajectory of marital satisfaction in the first 7 years between couples in covenant versus standard marriages. The authors analyzed data on 707 Louisiana marriages from the Marriage Matters Panel Survey of Newlywed Couples, 1998-2004, using multivariate longitudinal growth modeling. When the sample was restricted to couples who remained married over the duration of the study, a marginal benefit of covenant status was found for husbands. This effect was largely accounted for by covenant husbands' more extensive exposure to premarital counseling. The linear decline in marital satisfaction over time that obtained for both husbands and wives was not, however, any different for covenant marriages versus standard marriages. Couples characterized by more traditional attitudes toward gender roles were significantly less satisfied than others. High premarital risk factors, initial uncertainty about marrying the spouse, and the presence of preschool-age children in the household were all corrosive of marital satisfaction at any given time.


Does Similarity Breed Marital and Sexual Satisfaction?

Huiping Zhang, Petula Ho & Paul Yip
Journal of Sex Research, November/December 2012, Pages 583-593

This study examined the effect of socioeconomic-cultural homogamy on the marital and sexual satisfaction of Hong Kong Chinese couples. Using a representative, territory-wide sample of 1,083 first-time married heterosexual couples, this study found that wives were generally less satisfied than their husbands with their marital and sexual relationships. Husbands were more likely to be satisfied with their marriages when they were two to four years older than their wives than when they were of similar age to their wives (i.e., within one year of each other), but they were less likely to be satisfied with their marriages when only their wives were employed than when both partners were employed. In addition, they were less likely to be satisfied with both their marital and sexual relationships when their wives were five or more years older. Wives with an older husband were more likely to be sexually satisfied than wives of the same age as their husband, but they were less likely to be satisfied with their marriages when they were better educated than their husbands. The implications of the findings are discussed.


Can You See How Happy We Are? Facebook Images and Relationship Satisfaction

Laura Saslow et al.
Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming

Love is often thought to involve a merging of identities or a sense that a romantic partner is part of oneself. Couples who report feeling more satisfied with their relationships also feel more interconnected. We hypothesized that Facebook profile photos would provide a novel way to tap into romantic partners' merged identities. In a cross-sectional study (Study 1), a longitudinal study (Study 2), and a 14-day daily experience study (Study 3), we found that individuals who posted dyadic profile pictures on Facebook reported feeling more satisfied with their relationships and closer to their partners than individuals who did not. We also found that on days when people felt more satisfied in their relationship, they were more likely to share relationship-relevant information on Facebook. This study expands our knowledge of how online behavioral traces give us powerful insight into the satisfaction and closeness of important social bonds.


Selection and the Marriage Premium for Infant Health

Kasey Buckles & Joseph Price
Demography, forthcoming

Previous research has found a positive relationship between marriage and infant health. However, it is unclear whether this relationship is causal or a reflection of positive selection into marriage. In this paper, we use multiple empirical approaches to address this issue. First, we use the rich set of information available in the Natality Detail Files to control for selection into marriage along observable characteristics. We use a technique developed by Gelbach (2009) to determine the relative importance of different covariates, and show how selection into marriage has changed over time. Second, we construct a matched sample of children born to the same mother and exploit individual-level variation in marital status at birth. We apply fixed-effects and first-differences techniques to this matched sample to account for time-invariant unobserved characteristics. We find evidence of a sizable marriage premium. However, the premium fell by over 40% between 1989 and 2004, largely as a result of declining selection into marriage by race. Accounting for selection reduces OLS estimates of the marriage premiums for birth weight, prematurity, and infant mortality by at least half.


The Association of Divorce and Extramarital Sex in a Representative U.S. Sample

Elizabeth Allen & David Atkins
Journal of Family Issues, November 2012, Pages 1477-1493

Few studies provide specific rates of marital divorce or separation in association with a history of infidelity. Research based primarily from clinical or help-seeking populations suggests that most couples who have experienced infidelity do not divorce within the time frames assessed. Using self-reported history of extramarital sex (EMS), divorce, and separation data from 16,090 individuals assessed between 1991 and 2008 as part of the General Social Survey (GSS), the authors found that, relative to married (and never divorced) individuals, a history of EMS raised the likelihood of being currently divorced but remarried (odds ratio [OR] = 2.6), divorced and not remarried (OR = 4.1), and separated (OR = 5.8). While there are interpretive limitations, the data from the GSS suggest that more than half of men and women who engage in EMS also separate or divorce from their spouse. Results are discussed in terms of methodological differences among studies as well as clinical implications.


Verbal Communication about Sex in Marriage: Patterns of Language Use and Its Connection with Relational Outcomes

Jon Hess & Tina Coffelt
Journal of Sex Research, November/December 2012, Pages 603-612

This study examined the vocabulary husbands and wives use for talking to each other about sex, and connections between language use and relational qualities. Married people (n = 293) responded to a questionnaire about their use of common sex-related terms and about several characteristics of their marriage: sexual communication satisfaction, relational satisfaction, and relational closeness. Cluster analysis based on reported use revealed that sexual terms fell into clusters characterized as clinical terms, slang, or standard English. Results showed an association between use of sexual terms, particularly slang terms, and both satisfaction and closeness. This connection was stronger for women than for men. The findings offer insight into sexual talk and marital relationships.


Jackpot? Gender Differences in the Effects of Lottery Wins on Separation

Diederik Boertien
Journal of Marriage and Family, October 2012, Pages 1038-1053

In this study, information on small to modest lottery wins from the British Household Panel Survey (N = 2,563) was used to investigate the effect of income on separation. The analysis demonstrated that money matters within relationships. Lottery wins temporarily reduced the odds of separation after men won. Men spent more on leisure and became more satisfied with their leisure time and social lives after winning. Nevertheless, most of the effect of lottery wins on union stability was not mediated by changes in satisfaction; instead, a direct effect of wins on the threshold to leave relationships was observed. No effect on union stability was found when women won. Women did not spend their winnings on leisure time but instead saved or spent money on durable items. These types of spending did not increase satisfaction. The findings suggested that, within families, men acted relatively independently, whereas the behavior of women was more family oriented.


Family social background and marital instability in Italy. Do parental education and social class matter?

Lorenzo Todesco
Social Science Journal, forthcoming

Notwithstanding much scholarly attention paid to the determinants of marital dissolution in recent decades, little analysis of the role of family social background has been produced. This study consolidates the research assessing the association between family social background and marital stability in Italy. Italy is an interesting case because of its institutional and cultural context. The empirical analysis considered here stems from the theoretical framework derived from Goode (1962) on the social composition of people dissolving their marriages. Some discrete-time hazard models estimate the effect of family social background on marital stability. Findings demonstrate that, in Italy, the higher the family social background, the higher the risk of marital disruption. Moreover, this study sheds new light on the effects of some well-investigated correlates of union dissolution, namely education and parental disruption.


Parental Control over Mate Choice to Prevent Marriages with Out-group Members: A Study among Mestizos, Mixtecs, and Blacks in Mexico

Abraham Buunk, Thomas Pollet & Shelli Dubbs
Human Nature, September 2012, Pages 360-374

The present research examined how a preference for influencing the mate choice of one's offspring is associated with opposition to out-group mating among parents from three ethnic groups in the Mexican state of Oaxaca: mestizos (people of mixed descent, n = 103), indigenous Mixtecs (n = 65), and blacks (n = 35). Nearly all of the men in this study were farmworkers or fishermen. Overall, the level of preferred parental influence on mate choice was higher than in Western populations, but lower than in Asian populations. Only among the Mixtecs were fathers more in favor of parental influence on the mate choice of children than mothers were. As predicted, opposition to out-group mating was an important predictor of preferred parental influence on mate choice, more so among fathers than among mothers, especially in the mestizo group - the group with the highest status. In addition, women, and especially mestizo women, expressed more opposition to out-group mating than men did.


Sexual selection under parental choice: Evidence from sixteen historical societies

Menelaos Apostolou
Evolutionary Psychology, August 2012, Pages 504-518

Asymmetrical fitness benefits between parents and offspring result in the ideal spouse not being the ideal in-law. This enables parents to attempt to control the mating behavior of their children, and when they succeed, parental choice becomes a primary sexual selection force. A number of studies indicate that parental choice is dominant in contemporary pre-industrial societies. This paper presents evidence from the historical record which indicates that parental choice was also dominant during the later stages of human evolution. More specifically, 40 variables have been coded for a sample of 16 historical societies. Consistent with the model of parental choice, it is found that mating is controlled by parents, male parents exercise more control over marriage arrangements than females, and more control is exercised over female than male offspring. Finally, the specific qualities that parents desire in an in-law and offspring desire in a spouse have also been identified. The implications of these findings are discussed.

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