Campus: San Diego State University -- July 23, 2003

Report: Kids Take Greater Toll On Marriage Satisfaction Of Affluent Couples per SDSU Study

Study by SDSU, University of Georgia and Air Force Academy Covers Decades of Data

More money and modern times mean less marital bliss for parents, according to a recent study co-written by San Diego State University psychology professor Jean Twenge.

Twenge, along with W. Keith Campbell of the University of Georgia and Craig A. Foster of the United States Air Force Academy, found wealthier couples with children suffer a drop in marital satisfaction three times larger than that experienced by middle-class or low-income parents. They also discovered that couples who became parents over the last decade experienced a drop in marriage satisfaction twice as large as that reported by parents in the 1960s and 1970s.

The study, which will be published in the Journal of Marriage and Family in August, pools and analyzes data from 148 studies that date back as far as the 1950s. This is the first study of children and marital satisfaction to summarize all of the existing data.

Twenge said wealthier couples may be reporting higher levels of marriage dissatisfaction because they experience a greater loss of control over their previous lifestyle after having children. Couples with less money may not have to sacrifice as much of their lifestyles when kids come into the picture.

“While wealthier parents have more resources to help them with child care, their ability to pursue the travel, recreational or social activities important to their relationship can be greatly curtailed by the responsibilities of raising children,” she said. “That can be very stressful on a marriage.”

The researchers also found mothers with infants experienced the largest drop in marital satisfaction of any group in the study. Only 38 percent of these mothers reported high marital satisfaction, compared to 62 percent of women without children. Twenge said this most likely occurs because women bear the primary responsibility for caring for the infant.

“It’s important to note that we studied marital satisfaction, not overall satisfaction,” Twenge said. “The message isn’t, ‘Don’t have kids,’ it’s ‘Don’t have kids to try to improve your marriage.’ People should realize that it will be difficult and be prepared for it.”

CONTACT: Jennifer Zwiebel, SDSU Marketing & Communications
(619) 594-4298, (619) 242-1365 pager, jzwiebel@mail.sdsu.edu

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