February 10, 2008

The Early Years of Marriage Study, 1986 - 1989

In January 2008, each student in FSoS 5014, Introduction to Quantitative Family Research Methods, was asked to summarize and evaluate information about a secondary data set used in the family field. The following summary was prepared by Samantha Rieks.

Purpose: to investigate factors related to marital stability in the early years of marriage.

Principal Investigators: Joseph Veroff, Shirley Hatchett, Elizabeth Ann Malcolm Douvan, and Terry Orbuch.

Years of Data Collection: 1986, 1987, 1988, and 1989.

Participants: all had applied for a marriage license in Wayne County Michigan between April and June of 1986; wives had to be 35 years old or younger; this marriage was the first for both partners; most participants had beyond a high school education and had achieved an education level beyond their parents’ education levels; statistics varied by race, but most couples did not have children, most couples had one or both spouses employed, and incomes ranged from less than $10,000 a year to over $30,000 a year; the study began with 373 participants (199 African American and 174 White American) and 59 control participants (38 White American and 21 African American).

Wave 1, 1986: 373 participants (199 African American and 174 White American) and 59 control (38 White American and 21 African American).
Wave 2, 1987: 347 of original 373 participants.
Wave 3, 1988: 264 of original 373 participants.
Wave 4, 1989: 252 of original 373 participants.

Types of Data:
Wave 1, 1986: individual interviews and an audio taped couple interview.
Wave 2, 1987: telephone interviews with each spouse.
Wave 3, 1988: individual interviews and audio taped couple interview.
Wave 4, 1989: individual phone interviews.

Investigation: combination of phone interviews, surveys, individual interviews and couple narratives were used and scored looking at premarital social status and family background, marital cognitions, interpersonal perceptions and attitudes, perceived and actual interactions, social networks, and marital feelings.

Strengths and Weaknesses:
- For some interviews for some waves (1, 2, and 4) the interviewers only surveyed the wives;
- I am curious about participant selection and using a broader sample or having more descriptive information on the existing sample (i.e., cohabitation, religious beliefs, etc.)
+ The investigators used both participant self-report and observed/coded couple
interactions as data;
-/+ The investigators used a control group to see what impact the study had on
marital life, but it was unclear how they felt the study could contribute to marital

Accessibility: Basic information on the study is available but without SPSS or library access further details are not available from the Murray Archive alone.

Usefulness to family research: This is a fascinating topic that is timely in light of the broad spectrum of stability and instability in marriage in the United States. Without more information beyond the archive, it is difficult to assess the usefulness of their results or methods, but the design is intriguing.

Website: www.murray.harvard.edu Searching by author and/or name of study and you will find the overview, the interview sheets, the data files and a list of publications.

Access: You can gain basic access to the data by affirming the online agreement not to distribute the information or identifying anyone in the study, etc. There is contact information to submit an application for further access.

Posted by hgroteva at February 10, 2008 1:47 PM