Relative resources and marital instability: a comparison of eight European countries

Maike van Damme, LISER
Pearl Dykstra, Erasmus University Rotterdam

We test the relative resources theory (Blood & Wolfe, 1960; Lundberg & Pollak, 1996) by explaining marital satisfaction and thoughts about leaving a romantic relationship with relative earnings, education, and occupational status. We expect that the more resources women have compared to their spouse, the more dissatisfied both women and men would be with the relationship and the more likely they are to think about exit. Using the Generations and Gender Surveys (GGS) [2004-2013], we compare men and women that are in a ‘young’ couple - i.e. couples that were formed only after 1995 - for eight European countries. We also examine whether relationship instability and the effects of relative resources differ across contexts (the degree of gender egalitarianism on the macro level and SES on the meso level). We find that next to relative resources, also absolute resources matter. More absolute resources for the wife go together with more marital satisfaction (for both men and women) and less thoughts about divorce/separation (for women). Apparently, a certain amount of independence needs to be there in order to question the stability of the relationship, especially for women.

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Presented in Session 73: Families and gender