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Marital Quality

Consequences Of Marital Quality

In contrast to the literature on the bases of marital quality, that on its consequences is quite sparse. About the only variables likely to be affected by marital quality to which strong relationships have been shown to exist are global happiness and life satisfaction (Andrews and Withey 1976; Campbell, Converse, and Rodgers 1976; Glenn and Weaver 1981). Data from the 1982-1991 General Social Surveys show that the percent of married persons who said they were personally very happy varied from 57.2, for those who said they had "very happy" marriages, to 11.2 and 2.6, respectively, for those reporting "pretty happy" and "not too happy" marriages. Although this relationship may be partially spurious, it is likely to be largely causal, since theory and common sense predict strong effects of marital quality on life quality. If so, the data indicate that having a good marriage is virtually necessary, though not sufficient, for global happiness.

Research on the effects of marital quality is likely to increase along at least two different lines. There is already a great deal of evidence on the probable effects of marital status on physical and mental health (Umberson 1987; Verbrugge 1979), and researchers are beginning to perceive the need to do equally extensive and sophisticated research on the health effects of marital quality. Simply stated, the main question is: How bad does a marriage have to be before it is worse than no marriage at all? There is also much discussion, especially in the journalistic and policy literature, about the effects of marital quality on children, as conservatives and communitarians have challenged the orthodox liberal belief that it is better for the children if the parents divorce when a marriage goes bad. Virtually everyone agrees that a violent or extremely hostile marriage is bad for children, but how bad does a marriage have to be for the children to benefit from the parents' separation? Excluding the most hostile and conflict-ridden marriages, is there any close relationship between the quality of the parents' marriage and the children's well-being? So far, well-conducted research has provided hints, but no compelling evidence. We must also await comparative cross-cultural data to assist us in establishing the uniformity for both the causes and consequence of marital quality as they are currently viewed by North American academics.


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Marriage and Family EncyclopediaRelationshipsMarital Quality - Measurement Issues, Trends In Reported Marital Happiness, Bases Of Marital Quality, Consequences Of Marital Quality