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Prof. Millie Roqueta
Chapter 9
1. The challenges to the traditional model of marriage
2. The motivation to marry
3. Selecting a mate
4. Predictors of marital success
5. The Family Life Cycle
6. Vulnerable areas in marital adjustment: gaps in role expectations, work and career
issues, financial difficulties, inadequate communication
7. Increasing rate of divorce
8. Deciding on a divorce
9. Adjusting to divorce
10. Remarriage
11. Alternatives to marriage: remaining single, cohabitation, gay relationships
12. Application: understanding intimate violence
Challenges to the Traditional Model of Marriage
Challenges to
A. Marriage: the legally and socially sanctioned union of sexually
intimate adults.
1. Traditionally, the marital relationship has included
economic interdependence, common residence, sexual
fidelity, and shared responsibility for children.
2. Today, the institution of marriage is in a period of
transition, creating new adjustment challenges for
modern couples.
B. Social trends that challenge the traditional model of marriage:
1. Increased acceptance of singlehood
a. The median age at which people marry has
increased from 20.5 in 1950 to 27 in 2000.
b. Remaining single is becoming a more viable
lifestyle. The negative stereotype of people who
remain single – which pictures them as lonely,
frustrated and unchosen – is gradually evaporating.
2. Increased acceptance of cohabitation
a. Cohabitation is living together in a sexually
intimate relationship without the legal bonds of
b. Year 2000 census data reflect the number of
couples living together increased more than tenfold
between 1970 and 2000.
Prof. Millie Roqueta
3. Reduced premium on permanence
a. While most people still view marriage as a
permanent commitment, many people are also
strongly committed to their own personal growth.
Marriage is often seen as just one context in which
such growth can occur.
b. This commitment to personal growth may lead
people to consider divorce justifiable.
c. Social stigma associated with divorce has lessened.
4. Transitions in gender roles
a. Social changes and economic pressures have led to
substantial changes in the gender-role expectations
of many people entering marriage today.
b. Role expectations for husbands, wives becoming
more varied, more flexible and more ambiguous.
c. Changing roles create new potential for conflict.
5. Increased voluntary childlessness
a. An increasing number of married couples have
chosen not to have children or to delay having
b. This trend is probably the result of new career
opportunities for women, the tendency to marry at a
later age, and changing attitudes.
6. Decline of the traditional nuclear family
a. Today, it is estimated that only a small minority of
American families match the idealized image of a
“normal” nuclear family consisting of a husband and
wife married for the first time, bearing two or more
children, with the man serving as the sole
breadwinner and the woman filling the homemaker
b. The increasing prevalence of single-parent
households, stepfamilies, childless marriages,
unwed parents, and working wives make the
traditional nuclear family a highly deceptive mirage
that does not reflect the diversity of family structures
in America.
Moving Toward Marriage
The Motivation to
Most Americans have been socialized to believe that our lives
aren’t complete until we find a mate. Experts project, indeed, that
over 90% of Americans will marry at least once. Some will do it
several times. But what motivates people to marry?
Prof. Millie Roqueta
Selecting a Mate
A great variety of factors motivate people to marry (see
Table 9.4). Foremost among them is the desire to participate
in a socially sanctioned, mutually rewarding, intimate
There is considerable social pressure on people to marry.
Parents, relatives, and friends expect you to marry
eventually, and they often make this expectation abundantly
clear with their comments and inquiries.
The popular view in our culture is that people marry because
they have fallen in love. This view is oversimplified. A
multitude of motivational factors are involved in the decision
to marry (see Table 9.4).
Some of the factors involved in selecting a mate are:
Endogamy: the tendency of people to marry within their own social
2. Homogamy: the tendency of people to marry others who have
similar personal characteristics.
a. Marital partners tend to be similar in age and education,
physical attractiveness, attitudes and values.
b. Homogamy is associated with longer-lasting and more
satisfying marital relations.
c. Deviations from homogamy: men tend to be older, better
educated than wives; women tend to marry older men.
d. Cultural norms discourage women from dating younger men,
which may contribute to a “marriage squeeze” for women.
Without the freedom to date younger men, women are likely
to find their pool of potential partners dwindling more rapidly
than men of similar age do.
3. Gender and mate selection preferences
a. Similarities include importance of kindness, emotional
stability, dependability, and pleasant disposition.
b. Differences tend to be nearly universal across cultures and
may be explained in terms of evolutionary concepts: men are
thought to look for youth, attractiveness, good health, and
other characteristics presumed to be associated with higher
fertility. Women seek male partners who possess or are likely
to acquire more material resources that can be invested in
c. Women place higher value on socioeconomic status,
intelligence, character, ambition, and financial prospects.
d. Men place more emphasis on youthfulness, physical
attractiveness, and interest in raising a family.
Prof. Millie Roqueta
Predictors of
Marital Success
Stimulus-value-role theory (see Table S-V-R Theory)
a. Developed by Bernard Murstein.
b. Proposed three stages of progress toward marriage.
c. First stage focuses on stimulus value of potential partners. At
this point, individual focuses on relatively superficial and
easily identifiable characteristics of the other person,
especially physical attractiveness, social status, occupational
success, and reputation.
d. Second stage involves value comparison, a stage involving
mutual exploration of values and preferences. Pair will begin
to explore each other’s attitudes about religion, politics, sex,
gender roles, leisure activities, etc.
e. Stage three is the role stage, in which individuals begin to
consider the possibility of marriage. At this point, individuals
focus on the distribution of power in the relationship, the
reliability of emotional support, and the quality of their sexual
Measuring marital “success" is difficult, however, some predictors
of marital success have been identified:
1. Family background
a. People whose parents were divorced are more likely
than others to experience divorce themselves.
b. Marital instability appears to run in families.
2. Age
a. Couples who marry young have higher divorce rates.
b. Couples who marry late also have high propensity to
3. Length of courtship
a. Longer periods of courtship are associated with a
greater probability of marital success.
b. This may be because people who are cautious about
marriage have attitudes and values that promote
marital stability.
4. Socioeconomic class
a. Divorce rate is higher in working and lower classes.
b. A key reason appears to be greater financial stress.
5. Personality
a. The personality traits of individuals are generally not
predictive of marital success.
b. However, presence of emotional disorders in one or
both partners is associated with marital problems.
c. In terms of the Big Five personality traits, neuroticism
is negatively correlated with marital adjustment.
d. There is also some evidence of a positive association
between agreeableness and conscientiousness and
marital adjustment.
Prof. Millie Roqueta
Marital Adjustment Across the Family Life Cycle
The Family
Life Cycle
Family life cycle: an orderly sequence of developmental stages
that families tend to progress through.
Between families: the unattached young adult
a. Young adults in process of becoming independent of
b. The trend has been for this stage to be prolonged in
more people in recent decades.
Joining together: the newly married couple
a. Before the couple has children.
b. Tends to be characterized by high satisfaction, “marital
c. Used to be fairly short, but more and more couples are
choosing to remain childless.
 Childless couples cite great costs incurred, loss of
privacy and time involved in raising children.
 In spite of costs, most parents report no regret
about choice.
Family with young children
a. Marked by disruption in established routines.
b. Key to making smooth transition is to have realistic
expectations about parental responsibilities.
c. Some of negative effects associated with parenthood
may be due to other processes.
Family with adolescent children
a. Generally considered a difficult time for parents because
of conflicts with children.
 Recent research suggests that adolescence is not
as difficult as once believed.
 But this stage is especially stressful for parents:
(1) Parental influence tends to decline.
(2) Conflict involving adolescents and their
mothers are particularly likely.
b. Additionally, middle-aged couples often worry about
care of their own parents. They are known as the
“sandwich generation”.
Launching children into the adult world
a. In many instances, parent-child conflict subsides,
relations become closer.
b. Young adults are remaining in the homes of their parents
for longer periods of time.
c. Parents faced with prospect of "empty nest".
The family in later life
a. Marital satisfaction tends to increase during this stage
b. Many couples experience period of increased intimacy.
Prof. Millie Roqueta
Vulnerable Areas in Marital Adjustment
Gaps in Role
An unavoidable reality of marriage is that couples must confront a
legion of problems together. During courtship, couples tend to
focus on pleasurable activities; once married, they deal with a
variety of problems such as arriving at acceptable role
compromises, paying bills, and raising a family. Successful
marriages depend on the couple’s ability to handle their problems.
1. Gaps in role expectations appear to have a negative impact
on marital satisfaction.
2. Marital role expectations tend to be shaped by exposure to
parents' relationship.
3. Social forces such as women demanding careers and
economic realities have modified expectations.
a. Modern couples need to negotiate and renegotiate role
responsibilities throughout the family life cycle.
b. Husbands and wives with nontraditional attitudes about
gender roles in marriage report somewhat lower marital
4. Women seem to be especially vulnerable to confusion about
shifting marital roles
a. Assume that husband will take equal responsibility in
b. But studies show that wives still do bulk of housework
 Wives who work outside of home, and do bulk of
housework and child-rearing may suffer from role
overload (when the prescribed activities for various
roles are greater than the individual can comfortably
 Women who are committed to careers also likely to
experience inter-role conflict (uncomfortable
dissonance experienced when the demands of two
or more roles are contradictory or incompatible).
c. Role overload, inter-role conflict less problematic for
wives when couples have equitable role responsibilities.
5. Couples should discuss role expectations before marriage.
Work and Career
An individual’s job satisfaction and involvement can affect their own
marital satisfaction, their partner’s marital satisfaction, and their
children’s development.
1. Husbands' work and marital adjustment
a. High commitment to work coupled with strong
commitment to parenting create role strain.
b. Stress at work can have negative impact on marital
Prof. Millie Roqueta
Wives' work and marital adjustment
a. Most studies find few differences in marital adjustment
of male-breadwinner versus dual-career couples.
b. Marital satisfaction tends to be highest when partners
share similar gender-role expectations.
Parents' work and children's development
a. Many studies have found that maternal employment is
not detrimental to children's development.
b. Some evidence that maternal employment during first
year after birth may have negative effects on a child’s
cognitive skills during early and middle childhood.
c. Maternal employment may help children become selfreliant, responsible.
How do couple’s financial resources affect marital adjustment and
family functioning?
1. Neither financial stability nor wealth can ensure marital
satisfaction, however, poverty can produce marital problems.
a. Husbands tend to view themselves as poor providers
and become hostile and irritable.
b. Husbands' frustration, hostility can undermine the warm,
supportive exchanges that help sustain relationships.
c. This problem is sometimes aggravated by disappointed
wives who criticize their husbands.
d. Spontaneity in communication may be impaired by an
understandable reluctance to discuss financial concerns.
2. Quarrels about how to spend money may be source of marital
Effective communication is crucial to the success of a marriage.
1. Unhappy marriages tend to be characterized by
communication problems.
2. Gottman and his colleagues were able to accurately predict
which couples would divorce based on communication
patterns. Gottman’s “Four Horsemen” (plus one): (1) contempt,
(2) criticism, (3) defensiveness, (4) stonewalling, and
(5) belligerence. (See Risk Factors for Divorce Table.)
3. Many approaches to marital therapy emphasize development
of better communication skills.
Increasing Rate of
Without question, divorce is a troubling event for most people as is
evident from the previous quote (see Effects of Divorce on p. 255).
Typically, divorce is the culmination of a gradual disintegration of
Prof. Millie Roqueta
the relationship brought about by an accumulation of many
interrelated problems.
1. Divorce rates have increased substantially in recent decades.
2. One projection is that about 50% of today's marriages in
United States will result in marital dissolution; recently, divorce
rates have gone down, with newest estimates being 40-45%
of all first –time marriages result in divorce.
3. Divorce rates are higher among blacks than whites or
Hispanics, lower-income couples, childless couples, people
who marry at relatively young age, and those whose parents
4. What types of marital problems are predictive of divorce?
Infidelity, jealousy, foolish spending behavior, drinking and
drug problems are among the most consistent predictors of
5. A variety of social trends have contributed to increasing
divorce rates:
a. Stigma attached to divorce has eroded.
b. Many religious denominations are becoming more
tolerant of divorce.
c. Entry of women into workplace has made women less
financially dependent on the continuation of their
Deciding on a
1. Divorces are often postponed repeatedly.
2. Although more common, divorce is still stressful, traumatic.
3. Remaining in an unhappy marriage is also potentially
detrimental--studies have found an association between marital
distress and elevated rates of anxiety, depression, drug
4. Decisions about divorce must take into account impact on
a. Evidence suggests that in the long run it’s less damaging
to children if unhappy parents divorce than if children
grow up in intact but dissension-ridden home.
b. But there is trauma for children when parents divorce.
 After divorce, children may experience depression,
anxiety, nightmares, dependency, aggression, etc.
 Divorce can have lasting impact that may extend
into adulthood.
 Divorce is particularly traumatic for children when it's
Prof. Millie Roqueta
Adjusting to
Divorce is an exceedingly stressful life event.
It seems to be more difficult for women than for men.
a. Women are more likely to assume responsibility of raising
b. Divorced women are less likely than ex-husbands to have
adequate income (36% reduction in standard of living).
But, women tend to have fewer mental health problems, more
positive feelings about divorce.
High preoccupation with one’s ex-spouse is associated with
poorer adjustment.
Most divorced individuals (75%) eventually remarry.
a. Among women, lesser education and lower income
associated with more rapid remarriage.
b. Men who are better educated, financially well-off tend to
remarry more quickly.
Divorce rates are higher for second marriages.
Adaptation to remarriage can be difficult for children.
Alternatives to Marriage
Remaining Single
There is substantial pressure to marry in our society.
Most single people expect to marry eventually.
There are two disparate stereotypes of single life:
a. Single people as carefree swingers.
b. Single people as maladjusted, frustrated, bitter people
who have not succeeded in finding a mate.
 Single people exhibit poorer mental, physical
 Although findings are mixed, most studies suggest
that single women are more satisfied with their lives,
less distressed than comparable single men.
Being married is associated with greater health, happiness.
a. Health benefits may result from social support from
b. Greater happiness of married people attributed to
advantages in social support, financial well-being, etc.
Prof. Millie Roqueta
Gay Relationships
Recent years have seen tremendous increase in number of
cohabiting couples. Fifty percent of all Americans have
cohabited prior to their marriage, either with their spouse-to-be
or someone else.
Cohabiting unions tend to be relatively short (50% break up
within one year).
Characteristics of cohabiting couples:
a. Rates higher in less educated segments of population.
b. Almost half have been married previously.
Motivations for cohabitation (as opposed to marriage):
a. Greater individualism, freedom.
b. Advantage of sharing living expenses.
c. Opportunity to check compatibility before marriage.
Most theorists see cohabitation as new stage in courtship
a. About three-fourths of cohabitants expect to marry
current partner.
b. But, cohabitants report less satisfaction with their
relationships than married couples.
Studies have found association between cohabitation and
higher divorce rates.
Estimated that about 10% of population is homosexual.
Gays' relationships develop in generally unsupportive social
a. Families, social institutions often stigmatize such
b. Although attitudes are becoming more liberal, gays
continue to be victims of discrimination, abuse.
Comparisons to heterosexual couples:
a. There is limited data to indicate that gay unions are
somewhat less stable than marriages, although that is
not surprising given the lack of support they encounter.
b. Studies have documented commonalities between gay
couples and married couples.
 Similar levels of love and commitment, sexual
satisfaction, overall satisfaction.
 Similar in what they want out of relationship,
prospective partner.
 Similar in factors that predict satisfaction, contribute
to dissolution.
Misconceptions about nature of gay relationships
a. Gays adopt traditional gender roles in union:
 Appears to be true in only small minority of cases.
 Gay couples generally seem to be more flexible
about role expectations.
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Prof. Millie Roqueta
b. Gays engage in very high levels of sexual activity:
 True only in certain segments of gay male
 Decidedly uncommon among gay women.
 Becoming less common among males since advent
of AIDS epidemic.
c. Gays rarely get involved in long-term, intimate
 Most gay men, and nearly all gay women, prefer
stable relationships.
 Although relationships among gay couples seem to
be less stable than those among married
heterosexuals, they may compare favorably to those
involving heterosexual cohabitants.
d. Gays tend to be thought of as individuals rather than as
members of families.
 Reflects society-wide bias that homosexuality and
family don’t mesh.
 Increasing number of gay couples are opting to have
e. Gays assumed to be similar to each other.
Discussion Questions
Do you think humans select a mate in much the same way that other
animals do? What do you think of the evolutionary view that suggests
that men and women seek a mate that will help maximize their own
reproductive fitness? Can you think of specific human behaviors that
tend to support this view?
It's been suggested that traditional gender roles make marriage a "better
deal" for husbands than for wives. Do you agree? Can you think of specific
examples in which an individual (husband or wife) can get a "better deal"
than the other in a marriage?
What do you think are the biggest adjustments a person has to make when
entering a marriage? Can you think of any strategies that could be used to
minimize the stress associated with these adjustments?
According to your textbook, when deviations from homogamy (the tendency
to marry someone with similar personal characteristics) occur, it’s usually the
husbands who are older and better educated than their wives. Why do you
think this is the case? How might evolutionary psychologists explain these
Research findings suggest that people whose parents were divorced are
more likely than others to experience divorce themselves. In other words,
and as your textbook states, marital instability appears to run in families.
Why do you think this is the case? How might a behavioral psychologist
explain these findings?
Why do you think it is that couples that marry relatively young have higher
divorce rates?
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Prof. Millie Roqueta
According to your textbook, more and more couples are deciding to remain
childless. How might evolutionary psychologists--with their emphasis on
reproductive fitness--explain this phenomenon?
What do you think of the research findings that suggest that adolescence is a
more difficult period for the parents than it is for the adolescents themselves?
What do you think are the main factors in our society that have caused the
steady increase in divorce rates? Do you foresee a time in the near future
when virtually no couples will remain married to each other throughout their
What do you think of the idea of using cohabitation as a kind of "trial
marriage"? As divorce becomes less stigmatized and easier to accomplish,
would you expect the cohabitation rates to decrease?
Are marriage contracts a worthwhile idea? If so, what specific issues do you
think should be addressed in a marriage contract?
How do you think the stereotype of the carefree, swinging single person
developed, particularly given the lack of empirical evidence to support this
Do you think homosexual marriages should be legally sanctioned? Why or
why not?
Do you think date rape occurs more often today than it did 20 or 30 years
ago, or do you think the increase in reported incidents is due to a clearer
understanding of what date rape is?
Can you identify any specific films or television shows that seem to promote
aggressive behavior toward women? What was/is your reaction to these
situations as they are portrayed in the media?
Chapter Summary References:
Adapted by Roqueta, M. (2002), from Weiten, W., & Lloyd, M. A. (2003), Psychology
applied to modern life: Adjustment in the 21st Century. Belmont, CA:
Wadsworth/Thomson Learning.
Table References:
 Table 9.4, adapted by Roqueta, M. (2002) from Hutchens PowerPoint Series for
Weiten, W., & Lloyd, M. A. (2003), Psychology applied to modern life: Adjustment in
the 21st Century. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning.
 Table of S-V-R Theory, adapted by Roqueta, M. (2002) from Weiten, W., & Lloyd, M.
A. (2003), Psychology applied to modern life: Adjustment in the 21st Century.
Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning.
 Table of Gottman’s Four Horsemen Theory, adapted by Roqueta, M. (2002) from
Weiten, W., & Lloyd, M. A. (2003), Psychology applied to modern life: Adjustment in
the 21st Century. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning.
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Prof. Millie Roqueta
 This site contains the Self Help Online
chapter on “Dating, Love, Marriage, and Sex.”
 This site contains information on a variety of family
issues. It includes real-life dramas in text and audio.
 The homepage of the Gottman Institute, where much
of John Gottman’s research is carried out, along with couples therapy and other
services. To his credit he includes information and services for gay and lesbian
couples and parenting training for everyone!
 Surf around this site
for interesting demographics and a balanced analysis of the effects of divorce on
 This brief but very helpful fact
sheet provides constructive pointers for parents who are divorcing. Links to other
useful information related to family life are provided.
 Developmental
information on the effects of divorce on children of different ages.
 The APA Public Interest Directorate’s
summary of research on Gay and Lesbian couples and parenting.
 Domestic
Violence resources with special attention to the needs of gay and lesbian couples
 Home page of the Institute on Domestic Violence in
the African-American Community
 Site on elder abuse.
Although this is not directly addressed in the text, the topic may be of interest to
your students.
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