Economic Strain and Remarried Couples: Actor-Partner Interdependence Modeling of the Indirect Effects of Financial Conflict on Economic Strain and Marital Outcomes
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.