A descriptive approach to examining marital success in contemporary United States
AuthorMarczak, Mary S., 1966-
AdvisorWilhelm, Mari S.
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractFrom the inception of Family Science as a discipline, researchers have shown great interest in understanding the workings of marital relationships. This effort intensified with relatively recent statistics on high rates of divorce and marital failure. In the 50th anniversary issue of the Journal of Marriage and the Family, several authors discussed the dominating presence of topics related to marital quality throughout the history of family research (Adams, 1988; Nye, 1988). Although the most examined human social relationships in our field, prominent researchers still suggest that the workings of a marriage are unknown to us (Gottman, 1994; Nye, 1988). One limitation of past research on marital quality has been the dominating presence of prediction-based research. Although conventional methods have furthered our understanding, scholars have suggested that divergent, interpretive data may produce "new insights" which may enhance or challenge conventional thinking (Elder, 1981; Jayaratne, 1983; Walker & Thompson, 1984). Various research strategies, placed under the broad label of qualitative methods have attempted to empower respondents by allowing them to describe a phenomenon of interest. The present study modeled the qualitative research method advanced by Paul Colaizzi (1978). The primary research goal of his descriptive approach is to allow the respondents to answer the question, what does it mean to have a successful marriage in our own historical time? More specifically, the research questions addressed were: How will the respondents describe successful marriages? How well do the emergent themes correspond with the themes delineated from the review of current measures of marital quality? To what extent do group differences or similarities exist between researchers and lay respondents? Ninety-eight respondents provided detailed descriptions of events that exemplified successful marriages. Descriptive analysis generated the following 16 global themes of marital success: relationship climate, daily nurturing, supportiveness, overcoming hardships, differences disagreements, communication, knowledge of spouse, growth and learning, relationship vs. Individual, commonalities, individual characteristics, equal partnership, teamwork, longevity and resiliency, spirituality, and outside influence. It was found that among others, general emergent themes such as spirituality, supportiveness, individual and mutual growth, and knowledge about the spouse, were not represented in many of the widely utilized measures of marital quality.
Degree ProgramGraduate College
Family and Consumer Resources