Monday, June 14, 2010

Marital Interaction

Sociologists who define the family in terms of interaction have attempted to predict marital success from the premarital characteristics of the husband and wife. In their research they have generally defined success as "happiness" or "adjustment." They have rarely applied the concept of integration explicitly. However, criteria such as personal adjustment or happiness are undoubtedly highly associated with integration. For example, in the Burgess and Cottrell index of marital adjustment, the score is determined to a great extent by the ability of the couple to agree on a number of potential issues in family life.

The studies predicting marital success implicitly assume stability in marital relations throughout the marriage. However (as Pineo's investigation indicates), because couples generally marry at a time when their relationship is most integrated, it is possible that this integration declines over the years. Indeed, the concept of permanent availability suggests that (a) interests change during the marriage, (b) involvement in the particular mate-lover relationship is erratic, and (c) marital integration tends to decrease over time. Presumably, in a society in which marriage is established on the basis of mate-lover roles and common concerns, the lower the integration, the greater the tendency for the couple to emphasize views consistent with permanent availability.

The assertion is frequently made that married couples develop new interests over time and in this way compensate for the loss of romantic attachment. Some of the findings in marital prediction studies support this contention. For example, Burgess and Wallin found that a favorable attitude toward children and a desire to have several children are effective predictors of high marital adjustment. Sharing outside interests after marriage is also related to high marital adjustment. The suggestion is made that certain strategies of family organization can maintain high integration. These strategies involve specific values in family life: the welfare of the children, the home, or the parents' relationship to the community.

As the selections in the chapter on solidarity in the nuclear family will indicate, however, there are many interests and commitments that compete with those in the nuclear family. The husband and wife continually encounter conflicting demands and temptations. With the passage of time, unless common interests in children, leisure-time activities, or a home are developed, husband-wife commitments may decline.

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