Although marital disruption is costly in all segments of society, it disproportionately affects the poor. Recognizing this problem, the federal government has begun to invest unprecedented amounts of money in programs intended to strengthen marriage in low-income populations. Yet psychological research on marriages and families has almost never been conducted with low-income samples, despite the fact that it is this work that informs the programs and interventions currently being considered for implementation among low-income couples. The proposed research aims to address this gap by examining the nature and antecedents of marital distress and disruption within an ethnically diverse sample of low-income couples. Marriage licenses will be used to sample 513 black, white, and Hispanic first-married newlywed couples living in low-income neighborhoods. Guided by a model in which individual histories, contextual influences, and interpersonal processes are hypothesized to affect the quality and outcome of marriages, assessments will include self- reports of personal history, stress, and marital quality, census data on neighborhood characteristics, videotaped observations of marital interactions, and interviewer ratings of the home environment. Couples will be assessed in their homes and via telephone interviews 4 times over the first three years of marriage. Analyses will focus on describing low-income marriages and the contexts in which they occur and examining the processes by which low-income marriages develop and are maintained over time. Understanding the dynamics and contexts that account for success and failure in low-income marriages should help to direct resources toward interventions most likely to be effective in strengthening low-income families.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD)
Research Project (R01)
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Study Section
Psychosocial Development, Risk and Prevention Study Section (PDRP)
Program Officer
Bures, Regina M
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Rand Corporation
Santa Monica
United States
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Lavner, Justin A; Karney, Benjamin R; Bradbury, Thomas N (2016) Does Couples' Communication Predict Marital Satisfaction, or Does Marital Satisfaction Predict Communication? J Marriage Fam 78:680-694
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