Cover: Contextual Influences on Marriage

Contextual Influences on Marriage

Implications for Policy and Intervention

Published in: Current Directions in Psychological Science, v. 14, no. 4, Aug. 2005, p. 171-174

Posted on on January 01, 2005

by Benjamin Karney, Thomas N. Bradbury

Current proposals to promote and strengthen marriage among low-income populations focus on values and behavioral skills as primary targets of intervention. Marital research that examines contextual influences on marriage calls these emphases into question. Ethnographic and survey research reveal no evidence that populations experiencing higher rates of divorce value healthy marriages any less than other populations do. Longitudinal and observational research reveals two mechanisms through which the environment of a marriage may enhance or constrain effective relationship maintenance. First, some environments contain fewer sources of support and pose more severe challenges than others, presenting marriages in those environments with greater burdens than marriages in more supportive environments are faced with. Second, when demands external to the marriage are relatively high, even couples with adequate coping skills may have difficulty exercising those skills effectively. Together, such findings suggest that successful policies and interventions to strengthen marriages need to acknowledge the environments within which marriages take place.

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