Literature review on Marital satisfaction

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Literature review

Marital satisfaction defined

Extant literature has been dedicated to the definition of the concept of marital satisfaction. The work of Aldous (1996) noted that marital satisfaction is a concept that defines how couples consider or ‘feel’ about one another. Fincham and Bradbury (1987), on the other hand believe that marital satisfaction is an affective measure of the level of marital quality.The work of Spanier and Cole subsequently defined the concept of marital satisfaction as a rather subjective assessment on how an individual feels about their spouse, marriage or marital relationship. These definitions therefore clearly indicate that marital satisfaction is a purely subjective concept that depends on how a given marriage meets the expectations of a concerned partner (L.Scanzoni & J. Scanzoni, 1976).

Factors that determine marital satisfaction

Even though there is a large number of literature on marital satisfaction among citizens of the world, there is a limited number of research papers on this issue among Trinidanians.This limited number of work could be indicative of the fact that Trinidadians tend to have a reduced level of marital satisfaction that other nation like the United States. Generally speaking though, research on the level and nature of marital satisfaction among Trinidadians and Caribbean families is almost nonexistent (Bryant et al,2010). For example, most literature and major volumes on lack Caribbean families life are noted to lack the marriage term in the index ( HYPERLINK “” l “R19” Foner, 2001; HYPERLINK “” l “R4” Bashi, 2007). There is a general a limited number of studies that are dedicated to marriage life in Caribbean nations. For example, Barbados has been noted to have very low marriage rates with the figures collected between 1891 to 1994 indicating that the marriage rate has been around 5.4 for every 1,0000 adults (Barrow, 2001). In Trinidad and Tobago, common law unions are preferred over formal marriages (Barrows,2001).

The work of Barrow (1996) highlighted that most studies on Caribbean families have historically concluded that marriage is an institution that is more popular among the middle class, an assertion that has since been rubbished by more recent studies.For example, the work of Smith (1988), which was a quantitative study of Jamaican and Guyanese family life found that marriage is never reserve of the middle class. He work indicated that among the Jamaican’s, there exists a strong gender differentiation in their work-family task differentiation with both the middle-class and lower-class Jamaican men being less likely than their male counterparts in the USA to engage in certain responsibilities like child care.

Extant literature on the Caribbean marriages indicates that a discussion of marriage behaviors and attitudes must include a consideration of the cultural, economic as well as historical aspects of marriages ( HYPERLINK “” l “R53” Vickerman, 2001).

The work of Bradbury, Fincham, and Beach (2000) noted that that there are several determinants of marital satisfaction.They noted that these determinants include (1) cognitive function of the individual, like their attribution style of explaining the negative spouse behavior as well as other events between them; (2) affective function of the individual; (c) physiological concomitants of their spousal interactions (3) patterns in behavior of the individual such as withdrawn and/ or demand patterns; (4) violence that exists between the spouses; (5) sociodemographic factors, like age, number of children, length of marriage and socioeconomic status (6) life stressor as well as transition in life; (7) macrocontext, like the level of neighborhood, the national economic as well as regions where the couples live in.

The concept of marital satisfaction has been investigated in the past by concentrating on two main constructs; marital quality and marital stability. Marital stability is a concept that refers to the total duration of a given marriage. This is regardless of whether such a marriage is dissolved by divorce, death, desertion, separation or annulment as noted by Lewis and Spanier (1979).Marital quality on the other hand is a concept that is not easily defined. Most researchers have often used terms such as marital satisfaction, marital adjustments and marital happiness to refer to marital quality. While reviewing the concept of marital quality and stability, Lewis and Spanier decided to include a whole range of terms like marital happiness, marital adjustment and marital satisfaction. There is a common characteristic of these three terms- their subjective and qualitative dimension. According to Lewis and Spanier (1979,p.269), marital quality is a “ subjective evaluation of a married couple’s relationship”. Marital satisfaction on the other hand, was defined in the work of Hendrick and Hendrick (1997) as a subjective experience of an individual’s own happiness as well as contentment in a given marital relationship.

The work of Bradbury, Thomas, Fincham, Beach and Steven (2000) explored and presented a review of literature on marital satisfaction that were carried out in the 1990’s.Their work organized the various studies on this topic into two main categories: interpersonal processes as well as microcontextsand macrocontexts. The interpersonal processes included factors like cognition, physiology affect, violence, behavioral patterning and social support. The microcontexts on the other hand are the circumstances that are most likely to have a direct link to a couple’s interpersonal functioning in a given marriage while the macrocontexts are the broader social contexts that are found to have a more indirect and/or subtle effects on an individual’s interpersonal functioning. In regard to interpersonal process, studies on cognitions that are related to the concept of marital satisfaction has concentrated on the attributions of the marital partners. Research has indicated that all forms of maladaptive attributions are linked to high rates of negative behaviors between the partners during cases of problem solving as noted by Bradbury, Beach, Fincham, and Nelson, (1996).In regard to the negative effects, mixed findings have been documented, with certain studies indicating that it is damaging to the marital relationship, while others found these negative affects to be unconnected to the marital relationship as noted by Fincham and Beach (1999).

Extant literature has indicated that there is a link between proper marital functioning and the physical wellbeing of marital partners (Glaser, & Malarkey, 1996; Brown, Smith, & Benjamin, 1998; Cassisi, & Davis, 1997). Literature on behavioral patterning in marital couples has been concentrated on investigating the demand as well as withdrawal patterns of the parters (Klinetob & Smith, 1996). This specific pattern is noted by the authors to be made up of one partner nagging or criticizing the other partner who in reaction ends up avoiding the discussion altogether or disengaging from any sort of confrontation. An increased level of demand by the partner who is pursuing is noted to lead to a conflict or reduced levels of marital satisfaction (Klinetob & Smith, 1996).

Other studies on physical aggression and harm in marriages have indicated that the interaction patters of couples who are stresses are characterized low levels or negative reciprocation, contempt and anger (Holtzworth-Munroe, Smutzler, & Stuart, 1998).In contrast the work of Pasch and Bradbury (1998) indicated that spouses who are satisfied by their marriage are most likely to behave in a manner that encourages mutual understanding and these partners are also noted to be less likely to disrespect one another. On the same note, other studies have shown that spouses that are satisfied experience a significantly lower levels of anger as well as contempt when compared to their unsatisfied counterparts (see Pasch & Bradbury, 1998). Social support networks as well as other forms of supportive behaviors are also associated with very improved levels of marital quality (Saitzyk, Floyd, & Kroll, 1999).

The work of Bradbury et al. (2000) noted that the microcontexts and macrocontexts paradigms of marital satisfaction are all related to the social aspects of a couple’s daily lives. In this regard, transition to parenthood is noted to be a factor that affects marital satisfaction. Children are noted to be a factors in marital relationships with most studies indicating that the presence of children in a given relationship leads to increased levels of marital stability (Waite & Lillard, 1991). On the contrary, a large number of literatures on major life as well as transition stressors indicate that quite difficult times and moments bring couples together and thereby increases the levels of marital satisfaction (Hoekstra-Weebers, Jaspers, Kamps, & Klip,1998; Pavalko & Elder, 1990).

Economic strife on the other hand is noted to lead to reduced levels of marital satisfaction as argued by (Conger, Rueter, & Elder, 1999). According to Najam et al (1993), divorce and separation are more common among bereaved parents. According to South and Loyd (1995), the other macrocontextual risk factors that are most likely to cause marital dissolution are high levels of single women in the labor force, high geographical mobility as well as high numbers of legitimate potential mates.

The work of Bradbury et al. (2000) indicated that marital satisfaction is influenced by a series or multiplicity of factors. . Some components of a long-term satisfying marital relationship that have been identified are feelings of love, trust, respect, fidelity and commitment (e.g., Kaslow & Robinson, 1996; Rosen-Grandon, 1998). Other components are more tangible, such as social support, equity of tasks, gender roles and sexual interaction (Bradbury et. al., 2000; Kaslow & Robinson, 1996; Rosen-Grandon, 1998; Veroff et al., 1998). Communication and interpersonal processes have also been found to be significant contributors to marital satisfaction (Bradbury et al., 2000; Greeff, 2000). Kaslow and Robinson (1996) found shared interests in leisure and children to be an important factor in marital satisfaction. Still other elements of long-term satisfying marital relationships include similar religious beliefs, philosophy of life and cognitive processes (Bradbury et al., 2000; Greeff, 2000; Kaslow & Robinson, 1996; Rosen-Grandon, 1998). Kaslow and Robinson (1996) interviewed couples who were married over 25 years to find the central elements of a long-term satisfying marriage. Results indicated the top ten factors, in order from greatest to least, to be love, mutual trust, mutual respect, mutual support, corresponding religious beliefs, loyalty/fidelity, mutual give and take, similar philosophy of life, enjoyment of shared fun/humor, and shared interests. Similarly, Mackey and O’Brien (1995) interviewed 120 couples that had been married for at least twenty years and found five vital components tomarital

satisfaction: level of conflict, decision making, communication, relational values and intimacy. Higher levels of interpersonal conflict had a significant negative effect on marital satisfaction, with the highest level of conflict occurring during the child rearing years. The more difficult and unresolved the conflict, the lower the marital satisfaction. Mutuality in decision making, especially regarding children and parenting, was positively correlated with marital satisfaction. Couples reporting high marital satisfaction also indicated positive communication and felt they were able to talk to their partner about a wide variety of issues. Consistent with other research

(Kaslow & Robinson, 1996; Rosen-Granson, 1998), relational values found to be related to marital satisfaction included trust, respect, empathic understanding and equity. Finally, according to Mackey and O’Brien, both physical and psychological intimacy, were found to continue throughout the marriage in satisfying relationships, with an increase in psychological intimacy as the marriage progressed.

Socioeconomic Variables

Collins dictionary defined the term socioeconomic as circumstances or development involves combination of social and economic factors. Economic means concern with the organization of the money, whereas socio as an adjective that refers to something that related to social factor, means relating to the status or rank that someone has in society. In short, socioeconomic is defined as things that are related with organization of money and how it may affect the status or rank of a person in society.

In this study, socioeconomic variables refer to: (a) the husband’s income, (b) the wife’s income, (c) the combined income of husband and wife, and (d) the percentage of wife’s income over the combined income of husband and wife.  

Correlation of Socioeconomic Variables and Marital Satisfaction.

Bradburry et al. (2000) noted that socioeconomic factor is one of the important factors in determining couple’s marital satisfaction. It is crucial and important for the survival of the family life, as Notarius & Markman (1993) mentioned that financial problem can shake even the strongest and happiest couples. Furthermore they reason that couples who have a good financial saving can use it to buy facilities that can help their togetherness merrier. It goes without saying that good financial condition will tend to bring a merrier marital relationship. Research conducted by Wilkie, Ferre, & Ratcliff, (1998) confirmed this by mentioning that there is a positive correlation between family income and marital satisfaction of the couples.

Rogers and DeBoer (2001) found that increases in married women’s absolute and relative income significantly increase their marital happiness and well-being, whereas divorce is not significantly affected by increases in married women’s income. Nevertheless, increases in married women’s income may indirectly lower the risk of divorce by increasing women’s marital happiness. Furthermore Scanzoni (1978) argues that women’s economic contributions are the foundation of satisfying marital relationship and are necessary for establishing equality between partners and effective marital interaction.

It is worthy to note, that Kapur’s data (as cited in Khan, 2004) suggested that as long as the wife’s job status, income, and total number of working hours do not exceed those of the husband’s, the degree of conflict will not be severe. A research done by Philliber and Hiller (1983) found that problems do occur in marriages when the wife’s attainments are higher than her husband’s. Similarly, Khan’s (2004) study on marital instability in Dhaka, Bangladesh with special reference to dual-earner couples showed that the working wives who are superior to their husbands in educational and income levels are more likely to suffer from increased tension and dissatisfaction in their married life.

Even so, other research suggested a different finding, as revealed in a research that was done by Huber and Spitze (1980). They studied the effect of the relative income of husbands and wives in relation to the thought of divorce. In that study, it was found that the marital quality is not reduced by the wife’s achievements exceeding the husband’s. Rogers (1999) also found in his research that increases in wives’ income does not significantly affect either husbands’ or wives’ perception of marital discord.

Children and marital satisfaction

The birth of a first child presents a significant challenge for married couples, as their relationship undergoes a transition from a dyadic unit to a family of three or more. This transition may affect the family system in many different ways, both positive and negative. On the positive side, parents often experience a sense of gratification and joy over having a new baby. On the negative side, they may also experience exhaustion, lack of time for themselves, and more disagreement over issues pertaining to care of the baby and the division of family labor (e.g., HYPERLINK “” l “R7” Belsky & Pensky, 1988; HYPERLINK “” l “R23” Cowan & Cowan, 2000; HYPERLINK “” l “R87” Twenge, Campbell, & Foster, 2003). These strains and difficulties may affect the quality of their relationship as a couple adversely.

One of the earliest findings in the marital satisfaction literature is that partners’ satisfaction tends to be high around the time of the wedding, after which it begins a slow but steady decline ( HYPERLINK “” l “R16” Burgess & Wallin, 1953; see HYPERLINK “” l “R44” Gottman & Notarius, 2002 and HYPERLINK “” l “R48” Karney & Bradbury, 1995 for reviews of subsequent research). The birth of the first child is not the only factor responsible for the decline in marital satisfaction. It is possible that some of the decline in marital satisfaction is a function of time and erosion in the relationship that may characterize childless couples as well ( HYPERLINK “” l “R61” MacDermid, Huston, & McHale, 1990). Nevertheless, the period following childbirth is a time that merits special attention because the transition seems to introduce additional stress and strife into the couple relationship, which may accelerate the decline in marital satisfaction (e.g., HYPERLINK “” l “R6” Belsky & Kelly, 1994). Indeed, a recent meta-analysis reveals that although childless couples experience a decline in marital satisfaction over time, parents are significantly less satisfied than non-parents are, and number of children is reliably related to marital dissatisfaction ( HYPERLINK “” l “R87” Twenge et al., 2003). Since the pioneering study of HYPERLINK “” l “R55” LeMasters (1957), research has consistently shown that the transition to parenthood poses a serious challenge if not a crisis for marriage ( HYPERLINK “” l “R7” Belsky & Pensky, 1988; HYPERLINK “” l “R22” Cowan & Cowan, 1995; HYPERLINK “” l “R25” Cowan & Cowan, 1988; HYPERLINK “” l “R87” Twenge et al., 2003). Given the high rates of divorce in contemporary marriages ( HYPERLINK “” l “R76” Schoen & Canudas-Romo, 2006), it seems imperative that we understand the key risks and buffers to marital stability.

Gender and Marital Relations

Scholarship on gender suggests that the lower status and power possessed by women in society are mirrored in the marital relationship. This differential in power and status may increase women’s vulnerability to negative circumstances that affect the marriage, which, in turn, exacerbates the impact of negative circumstances on their marital satisfaction ( HYPERLINK “” l “R31” Menaghan, 1991; HYPERLINK “” l “R38” Spain & Bianchi, 1996). Consequently, qualitative aspects of marital life may be experienced differently by men and women. For example, marital strain is greater for women, particularly as women get older ( HYPERLINK “” l “R48” Umberson, Williams, Powers, Chen, & Campbell, 2005). Although a few studies of marital quality suggest no gender differences, most research indicates that women report lower levels of marital quality across several domains ( HYPERLINK “” l “R34” Rogers & Amato, 2000). Further, women begin the marital relationship with lower levels of marital quality compared to men (Umberson et al.). However, despite this initial differential, over the course of the marriage, positive dimensions of marital quality increase, whereas negative dimensions decrease for both men and women (Umberson et al.).

The influence of love and affection on marital satisfaction

According to Thomas (1990), happiness in marriage and workplace are the factor contribution to happiness and satisfaction in life. Happiness and marital satisfaction effected to mental and physical health. The findings in Haseley (2006) showed that a positive significant relationship between marital satisfaction and intimacy among couples. Due to the positive value among couples, support to the quality and marital satisfaction.

Religiosity and marital satisfaction

Sullivan further reported that the wives religious beliefs concerning relational commitment are more important than the husbands’ belief in regards to the stability of the marriage. The positive connection between church attendance and lower risk of divorce has been consistently discovered by researchers.The researchers reported that people highly committed to a religion have lower divorce rates than low-committed or nonreligious people