Variance in Trajectories of Marital Quality Prior to Divorce

Spencer L. James, Pennsylvania State University

Despite dramatic shifts in cohabitation, nonmarital childbearing, and union dissolution over the last several decades, marriage remains an important societal institution. Consequently, the stability and quality of marriage is of considerable importance to many social scientists. However, gaps remain in our knowledge of how marital quality changes with marital duration. One salient dimension that research has yet to examine is the shape and pattern of marital quality among individuals whose marriages end in divorce. To address this shortcoming, I employ finite mixture models that allow me to assess variance in patterns of marital dynamics by looking for naturally occurring trajectories of marital quality (e.g., a group with high but declining marital quality, a group with consistently low marital quality, etc.). Regression analysis is used to examine patterns of association between membership in the observed trajectories and covariates such as socioeconomic status, past relationship history, family background, work history, and fertility.

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Presented in Session 106: Family Formation and Dissolution in the Contemporary United States