Economic Strain and Remarried Couples: Actor-Partner Interdependence Modeling of the Indirect Effects of Financial Conflict on Economic Strain and Marital Outcomes
Carrese, Domenica Holzle
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Remarriages account for about one third of all marriages in the United States, however the research on remarried couple outcomes is limited, particularly with regard to finances and financial conflict. The family economic stress model theorizes that economic hardship promotes economic strain, which in turn promotes emotional distress and conflict patterns that have negative impacts on relationship satisfaction and relationship stability. This study used secondary cross-sectional dyadic data to conduct an actor-partner interdependence path analysis of 158 remarried couples to examine the direct and indirect effects of each spouse's perception of economic strain on their own marital satisfaction and stability, as well as on their spouse's marital satisfaction and stability, with financial conflict as an intermediary variable. Tests for indirect effects indicated that financial conflict strongly influences the relationship between economic strain and the marital outcomes (i.e., satisfaction and stability); none of the direct paths between economic strain and the marital outcomes were significant when accounting for financial conflict as a mechanism. Results indicated that, in the context of a remarriage, a person's perception of how much they have conflict about finances is a key mechanism that explains the association between that person's perception of economic strain and their marital satisfaction and stability, regardless of household income and marriage length. Clinicians who lack specific training in financial management but work with remarried couples experiencing economic strain and financial conflict may still be able to intervene effectively to improve relationship quality by helping spouses reduce interpersonal conflict.
General Audience Abstract
Remarriages account for about one third of all marriages in the United States, however the research on the satisfaction (overall relationship quality) and stability (propensity for divorce) of remarried couples is limited, particularly with regard to disagreements about their finances (financial conflict). This study analyzed data from 158 remarried couples to examine the possible effects of each spouse's views of their perceived inability to meet their financial demands (economic strain) on their own, as well as their spouse's, marital satisfaction and stability (marital outcomes), with their perceived financial conflict acting as a mediating variable between economic strain and marital outcomes. Results indicated that, in the context of a remarriage, financial conflict strongly influenced the relationship between economic strain and marital outcomes, regardless of household income and marriage length, such that even though there is still a relationship between economic strain and marital outcomes apart from financial conflict, it is weaker than when financial conflict is included. In other words, risk of dissatisfaction and divorce are less about how financially strained a remarried couple perceives they are, and more about how frequently the couple perceives they have conflict about finances. Therefore, the results of this study indicated financial conflict frequency is an important mechanism for understanding how economic strain can influence remarital outcomes for both spouses. Clinicians working with remarried couples to improve their relationships, but lack specific training in financial management, may still be able to intervene effectively around the financial conflict.
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