Gorchoff+et+al+2008 - Psychological Science...

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Psychological Science The online version of this article can be found at: DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2008.02222.x 2008 19: 1194 Psychological Science Sara M. Gorchoff, Oliver P. John and Ravenna Helson Contextualizing Change in Marital Satisfaction During Middle Age : An 18-Year Longitudinal Study Published by: On behalf of: Association for Psychological Science can be found at: Psychological Science Additional services and information for Email Alerts: Subscriptions: Reprints: Permissions: at UNIV CALIFORNIA IRVINE on September 22, 2010 pss.sagepub.com Downloaded from
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Research Article Contextualizing Change in Marital Satisfaction During Middle Age An 18-Year Longitudinal Study Sara M. Gorchoff, 1 Oliver P. John, 1,2 and Ravenna Helson 2 1 Department of Psychology and 2 Institute of Personality and Social Research, University of California, Berkeley ABSTRACT— To address the need for longitudinal marital research that takes contextual factors into account, we investigated change in women’s marital satisfaction over 18 years of middle age. We examined not only whether marital satisfaction changed, but also why and how it changed. Marital satisfaction increased in middle age, and increased marital, but not life, satisfaction was linked to the transition to an empty nest. More specifically, the transition to an empty nest increased marital satisfaction via an increase in women’s enjoyment of time with their partners, but not via an increase in the quantity of that time with partners. Also, increasing marital satisfaction was not attributable to changing partners. Taken together, these findings support the utility of applying a con- textualized approach focused on major life transitions to the study of long-term change in marital satisfaction. A recent debate over shifting agendas for marital research has generated the suggestion that, instead of adding new variables to the dizzying array of factors implicated in marital satisfaction, researchers should broaden the scope of marital research to address how marital satisfaction unfolds over time and in re- sponse to contextual factors (Karney, 2007). Changing marital satisfaction over time has been investigated extensively by cross-sectional studies focused on the entire course of marriage and by longitudinal studies of the early years of marriage (see Karney & Bradbury, 1995, for a review). But the longitudinal course of marital satisfaction after the newlywed years has yet to be studied adequately. CHANGE IN MARITAL SATISFACTION DURING MIDDLE AGE: CROSS-SECTIONAL, RETROSPECTIVE, AND LONGITUDINAL STUDIES Cross-sectional research has generally found that older couples whose children have left home report higher marital satisfaction than younger couples with children at home (e.g., Anderson, Russell, & Schumm, 1983; Kapinus & Johnson, 2003; Rollins & Cannon, 1974). Similarly, retrospective research has generally
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