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Retirement Influences On Marital And Family Relations

Despite the popular notion that retirement creates multiple marital problems (Harbert, Vinick, and Ekerdt 1992; Siegert 1994), there is considerable continuity in marital relations over the retirement transition (Atchley 1992; Ekerdt and Vinick 1991). Indeed, retirement tends to reinforce preretirement marital quality, and many marriages profit from retirement (Myers and Booth 1996; Rosenkoetter and Garris 1998). Improvements in postretirement marriages are linked to decreased stress, more time for companionship, and a more traditional division of household labor after wives' retirement (Szinovacz 1996; Vinick and Ekerdt 1991a, 1991b).

Nevertheless, some changes in marital relations do occur after retirement. Many wives expect retired husbands to contribute more to household work (Brubaker and Hennon 1982 ), and some studies suggest that husbands attempt to live up to this expectation, although they may focus their efforts on traditional male tasks such as home repairs (Niederfranke 1991; Schäuble 1989; Szinovacz 2000). Although many wives appreciate their husbands' efforts (Dorfman 1992; Vinick and Ekerdt 1991b), others perceive husbands' help as an interference in their domain and complain that their retired husbands are "underfoot" (Ekerdt and Vinick 1991; Kohli et al. 1989). Such perceptions prevail when husbands' housework is motivated by lack of other meaningful activities or when husbands criticize their wives' performance (Hill and Dorfman 1982; Vinick and Ekerdt 1991a).

Another concern in retirement marriages is the planning and coordination of spouses' time and leisure activities. Wives often adapt to their retired husbands' needs and negotiate the couple's leisure endeavors (Gilford 1986; Niederfranke 1991) but may resent increased demands by their retired husbands (Clemens 1993). Problems can also arise when spouses approach retirement with unrealistic or discordant expectations about joint endeavors (Caradec 1994; Ekerdt and Vinick 1991; Kohli et al. 1989; Vinick and Ekerdt 1992).

Lowered marital satisfaction often results if the husband retires prior to his wife and the couple abides by traditional gender role attitudes (Moen, Kim, and Hofmeister 2001; Myers and Booth 1996). In contrast, wives' retirement tends to reduce marital disagreements and arguments (Szinovacz and Schaffer 2000).

Retirement may further impinge on spouses' relative power in the relationship. Because a man's power is grounded in his status as provider, retirement can undermine his position in the marriage and render him more dependent on his wife (Kulik and Bareli 1997; Szinovacz and Harpster 1993).

Much speculation but little evidence exists concerning the effects of retirement on relationships to extended kin. Retirees seem to attach more importance to kin relationships (Niederfranke 1991) although this does not always result in more frequent contacts (Kremer 1985; Niederfranke 1991). Increased involvement seems to occur, especially in relations with grandchildren (Östberg 1992; Schäuble 1989), and men may catch up on previously neglected contacts with their children (Niederfranke 1991; Szinovacz and Davey 2001). On the other hand, retirees may be less able to provide financial support to children (Kremer 1985).

Additional topics

Marriage and Family EncyclopediaOther Marriage & Family TopicsRetirement - Definitions And Trends, Family Influences On The Retirement Transition, Family Influences On Postretirement Well-being