Economic Hardship, Stressors, and Marital Quality Among Stepcouples: An Examination of Direct and Indirect Effects
Type of DegreeDissertation
DepartmentHuman Development and Family Studies
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Previous research has established that economic hardship (EH) and stressors can have both direct and indirect effects on the marital quality of spouses in traditional first marriages. However, these factors have seldom, if ever, been examined with spouses in stepfamilies. Moreover, factors that affect the marital quality of spouses in stepfamilies in general have been understudied and it is unknown whether spouses in stepfamilies actually experience stressors unique to living in a stepfamily in addition to more general stressors that are common for most couples. Using a sample of 100 couples in stepfamilies, this study examined the direct, indirect, and comparative effects of three sets of variables (objective and subjective EH; general stressors and stepfamily-specific stressors; positivity and negativity) on the marital quality of stepcouple husbands and wives. Results from structural equation models showed that subjective EH, but not objective EH, was related to higher reported levels of general stressors and higher levels of stepfamily-specific stressors for both husbands and wives. Further, higher levels of stepfamily-specific stressors were associated with lower levels of positivity and marital quality, and higher levels of negativity in the relationship. For both spouses, positivity, but not negativity, had a direct effect on marital quality. Mediation models indicated that both general stressors and stepfamily-specific mediate the effect of subjective EH on marital quality for wives. Findings suggest that spouses in stepfamilies experience unique stressors associated with stepfamily life, in addition to general stressors, and these stepfamily-specific stressors have a direct inverse effect on marital quality for both husbands and wives.