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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Predicting marital instability: an empirical test of competing models Bartolic-Zlomislic, Silvia


There has been substantial empirical. research and theoretical modelling on the determinants of marital instability. However, the predominant theoretical models, largely based on field theory and social exchange, are ambiguous. Due to this ambiguity, there remains an ongoing debate in the literature as to the utility of these models. In addition, there are few empirical tests of these models, while existing tests are limited by poor measures and sample restrictiveness. Furthermore, the models are largely developed from research with samples restricted to short marital durations, consequently, limiting the utility of these models on marriages of longer duration. Five models based on Levinger's (1965, 1976) conceptualisation of marital attractions, alternatives, and barriers and Lewis and Spanier's (1979) theory of marital quality and marital stability are developed. Four sets of tests are conducted using the National Survey of Families and Households data set (waves 1 and 2), a national, stratified, multi-stage area probability sample consisting of over 13,000 cases in the United States'. First, a series of logistic regression analyses are run to determine if marital quality has a significant effect on marital stability, a notion based on little empirical evidence. Second, five models are compared to determine which of five competing explanations best fits the data. Third, the best fitting model is retested with the addition of control variables. Fourth, the resulting model is retested on younger and older marriage cohorts. Marital quality is found to have a significant effect on marital stability. Results of the model comparisons provide support for an additive curvilinear model where marital quality, alternatives, and barriers all have independent effects on marital stability. This provides support for Lewis and Spanier's (1979) marital typology With the addition of controls, the model remains significant. However, the additional significance of duration and commitment suggest that cohort and duration effects may be occurring. The model is effective in predicting marital stability for the younger marriage cohort but did not apply to the older marriage cohort. These results suggest a theoretical implication. Time oriented theories need to be examined as possible explanations for marital stability, especially for older marriage cohorts.

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