The Relationships between Economic Hardship, Financial Distress, Relational Aggression, and Marital Quality as Experienced by Mid-Life Married Couples during and following the Recent Economic Recession
Type of DegreeDissertation
Human Development and Family Studies
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Using data from the Flourishing Families Project, the current dissertation is composed of two studies examining how 335 mid-life married couples experienced economic hardship and financial distress during the recent economic recession and how their marital quality was influenced by these experiences. The first study, guided by Boss’s (2002) Contextual ABC-X Family Stress Model, explores the relationship between economic hardship in 2009 and financial distress both concurrently and longitudinally two years later. This study also explores how materialistic beliefs and savings influence these concurrent and longitudinal relationships. Concurrently, economic hardship is related to more financial distress for both wives and husbands. Wives’ and husbands’ materialistic beliefs are related to their own reports of more financial distress, while having savings is related to both spouses having less financial distress. Longitudinally, economic hardship is related to financial distress two years later indirectly through earlier levels of financial distress. Wives’ materialism continues to be related to wives experiencing more financial distress, while savings continues to be related to both spouses having less financial distress. The second study, guided by Conger et al.’s (1990) Model of Economic Hardship, examines the relationship between economic hardship in 2009 and financial distress in 2010 for both wives and husbands. This study also examines whether perceptions of spouses’ relationally aggressive behaviors (e.g., social sabotage and love withdrawal) in 2010 mediate the relationship between wives’ and husbands’ financial distress in 2010 and their marital quality in 2011. Economic hardship is related to more financial distress for both spouses. Both spouses’ financial distress is related to lower marital quality. Relationally aggressive behaviors are found to mediate the relationship between both spouses’ financial distress and their marital quality. Specifically greater financial distress is related to perceptions that the spouse is engaging in more relationally aggressive behaviors, which in turn, are related to lower marital quality. Implications of these studies are discussed.