Couple Disagreement in Reporting on Courtship Stages: Implications for Measurement and Marital Outcomes

Sarah Halpern-Meekin, University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee
Laura M. Tach, University of Pennsylvania

Previous research supports the idea that those who “slide” into more serious union stages, rather than “deciding” to do so, are at greater risk of poor marital outcomes. Using new, nationally representative couple-level data (n = 1,504), we test whether couple disagreement over whether and how premarital courtship stages took place is associated with marital outcomes. We argue that disagreement in retrospective relationship reports is a potential indicator of a couple having "slid" into a more serious relationship because it may be more likely to occur when a couple lacks clear symbols or turning points in the relationship. We find that couple disagreement is common, particularly among premarital cohabitors and for the less institutionalized courtship stages of dating and spending the night. Couple disagreement is associated with poorer marital outcomes, especially relationship satisfaction, partner supportiveness, and relationship happiness. Relationship measurement issues and the meaning of couple disagreement are discussed.

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Presented in Session 129: Transitions from Cohabitation to Marriage