Journal of Marriage and Family

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The Journal of Marriage and Family (JMF), published by the National Council on Family Relations, has been the leading research journal in the family field for more than 75 years and is consistently the most highly cited journal in Family Science. JMF features original research and theory using the variety of methods reflective of the full range of social sciences, including quantitative, qualitative, and multi-method designs; research interpretation; integrative review; reports on methodological and statistical advances; and critical discussion concerning all aspects of marriage, other forms of close relationships, and families. The journal also publishes brief reports.

Latest documents

  • Gender Role Attitudes: An Examination of Cohort Effects in Japan

    Objective This study examines cohort differences in attitudes toward women's roles within marriage in Japan. Background Japan has undergone dramatic sociocultural shifts in the 20th century that have shaped childhood experiences differently by cohort. Sociodemographic perspectives predict cohort effects, which suggest the lasting impact of experiences during the formative years on attitudes. Method This study employs a hierarchical age‐period‐cohort analysis and uses repeated cross‐sectional data from the 2000 to 2012 Japanese General Social Survey (N = 31,912), a nationwide probability survey. Results Among cohorts born before 1960, for both sexes, attitudes toward wife's employment and a gender‐based division of labor were significantly less traditional for later born cohorts. However, younger cohorts born in 1960 and after were not significantly different in their attitudes from the cohort born in the 1950s. Conclusion This study suggests the strong impact of ideological shifts and mothers' homemaking role (experienced in one's formative years) on gender role attitudes. It points to the important and lasting influence of structural contexts on attitudes and hence cohort effects. Implications This study contributes to our understanding of attitudinal change (and stagnation) toward gender roles and has policy implications for Japan and other countries characterized by low marriage and fertility rates.

  • Polygynous Unions and Intimate Partner Violence in Nigeria: An Examination of the Role of Selection

    Objective: This article explores the association between polygyny and intimate partner violence (IPV) in Nigeria, with attention to selection into polygyny. Background: Although IPV occurs within the social context of a family, the linkages between polygyny and IPV are rarely interrogated, and there is little attempt to differentiate between “polygyny effects” and “selection effects.” Method: This article uses a sample of 19,189 couples from the 2013 Nigeria Demographic Health Survey to conduct (a) a multivariate analysis of the characteristics that predict selection into polygyny, (b) a propensity score matching analysis of the association between polygyny and IPV, and (c) a Rosenbaum bounds analysis to assess hidden bias that might affect both selection into polygyny and IPV. Results: People who entered polygynous unions were different on observed characteristics—including relative status of husbands and wives coming into the union, education, religion, and ethnicity—than those who entered monogamous unions. Polygyny was associated with higher probabilities of women's reports of recent physical and emotional IPV, net of observed differences; however, a Rosenbaum bounds analysis indicated that it was highly plausible unobserved selectivity into polygyny helped account for these associations. Conclusion: It is important to move beyond viewing polygyny as a “risk factor” for IPV and toward understanding how selection into marriage is an important social process with implications for IPV, health, and well‐being.

  • Informal Networks of Low‐Income Mothers: Support, Burden, and Change

    Objective The authors examined the support and burden of low‐income, urban mothers' informal networks. Background Living or growing up in poverty strongly predicts barriers and instability across several life domains for mothers and their children. Informal networks can play a critical role in promoting maternal and child well‐being particularly in the midst of poverty. Understanding informal support and the reciprocal burden it may create is especially relevant for low‐income families living with a reduced public safety net in the post–welfare reform era. Therefore, study aims were to measure support and burden among low‐income mothers and determine if support and burden change over time. Method Data were from the Welfare, Children, Families project, a longitudinal study of 2,400 low‐income caregivers of children and adolescents living in Boston, Chicago, or San Antonio. We applied latent class analyses to support and burden indicators in four domains—emotional, favor, child care, and financial. Results The results supported the following four profiles of informal networks: healthy, unhealthy, burden only, and support only. Although most mothers had healthy informal networks, approximately one third experienced no support or support imbalance, which related to network changes at later time points. Demographic characteristics largely were not predictive of support profile or profile change. Conclusion Although many mothers had healthy support and burden, the most vulnerable did not have consistently healthy informal networks. The identification of a sizable minority of low‐income mothers who cannot consistently rely on informal support is significant in light of the diminished formal supports available to children and families.

  • Health Status and Transitions in Cohabiting Relationships of American Young Adults

    Objective: This study examines whether individual health predicts cohabiters' union transitions to marriage in American young adults. Background: Associations between health and subsequent marital transitions are well documented, but less is known about how health influences transitions of cohabiting relationships. As cohabitation has become a common relationship experience, understanding how health may influence cohabiters' union transitions is an important component of how health shapes relationship exposures more broadly. Method: Data were taken from Waves III and IV of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health, including the supplemental collection of relationship partners conducted during Wave III. Competing‐risk regressions for the transition of cohabiting unions to marriage were estimated in two samples: individuals and a smaller sample of cohabiting couples with information from both partners. Results: Healthier cohabiters are more likely to marry than are their less healthy counterparts, but only women's health is significantly associated with the transition to marriage. In the dyadic sample with information from both partners, the significant association between the female partner's health and the transition to marriage is robust to male partner characteristics, including health. Conclusion: Health is an important predictor of cohabitation transitions in early adulthood, but these transitions may only be sensitive to the female partner's health.

  • Gender Differences in Couples' Matrimonial Property Regime in Italy

    Objective This study investigates the characteristics of spouses in Italy who choose to pool their economic resources. Background If resource pooling is common among male‐breadwinner couples, expectations regarding resource pooling are mixed for female‐breadwinner couples or, more generally, for couples with wives who are economically advantaged when compared with their husbands. This study asks whether resource‐pooling strategies differ between couples with economically advantaged husbands, couples with economically advantaged wives, and couples in which spouses have similar economic resources. Method The article uses an objective measure of pooling of wealth available for Italy at the time of marriage: the matrimonial property regime, indicating the choice between a shared or separate ownership of assets accumulated during marriage. Using data from the 2015 marriage register, the article models the probability that a couple chooses the community of property with a logistic regression model. Results Couples with husbands who were economically advantaged when compared with their wives (i.e., the husband was older, more educated, or employed with a nonemployed wife) were more likely to choose the community of property when compared with couples with similar resources (both spouses were employed, of similar age or educational attainment); conversely, couples with economically advantaged wives were more likely to choose the separation of property. Conclusion Economically advantaged women seem to be “undoing gender” by protecting their economic resources via the separation of property.

  • Intergenerational Transmission of Family Violence and Depressive Symptoms in Urban Thailand

    Objective This study examines linkages between childhood exposure to family violence (FV) and adulthood depressive symptoms, directly and indirectly, through adulthood experience of FV among ever‐married Thai women. Background A growing body of research has shown that childhood experience of FV is not only intergenerationally transmitted but also significantly associated with negative mental health outcomes in adulthood. However, prior research is limited to Western contexts, with little known about how intergenerational pathways of FV operate outside of the West. Method Data come from a probability sample of ever‐married women living in Bangkok, Thailand, in 2000 (N = 811). The dependent variable is self‐reported depressive symptoms measured by the 20‐item Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale and the key independent variables are direct and indirect exposures to FV in childhood. The path models are estimated to incorporate the mediating variables of adulthood experience of FV via the Revised Conflict Tactics Scales. Results Our path analyses reveal that the intergenerational transfer of FV occurs, regardless of the form of violence experienced by ever‐married Thai women during childhood or adulthood. Moreover, although experiencing FV during childhood tends to exert direct effects on depressive symptoms in adulthood, witnessing FV during childhood affects depressive symptoms in adulthood only indirectly. Conclusion Taken together, our findings demonstrate that childhood exposure to FV elicits long‐term detrimental effects on women's adulthood experience of FV and mental health in urban Thailand.

  • Do Expectations of Divorce Predict Union Formation in the Transition to Adulthood?

    Objective: This study describes the association between explicit expectations of divorce and subsequent first union formation during the transition to adulthood (ages 18–28). Background: Expectations for marriage in young adulthood predict union formation. Even before marrying, young adults may express a perceived risk of eventual divorce, and expectations of divorce may also have implications for union formation during the transition to adulthood. Method: Data from the 2005 to 2015 years of the Panel Study of Income Dynamics Transition to Adulthood Supplement (n = 2,052) were used to estimate the association between expectations of divorce and entry into first premarital cohabitation and first marriage using discrete‐time logistic and multinomial logistic survival models. Results: As hypothesized, greater expectations for divorce predicted slower entrance into first marriage, even when controlling for expectations for marriage and various sociodemographic characteristics, and predicted a greater likelihood of both remaining single and being first observed cohabiting instead of marrying in young adulthood for both men and women. Conclusion: Despite desiring to marry, young adults may delay marriage if they are concerned about their risk of future divorce.

  • The Enduring Effects of Mother–Child Interactions on Episodic Memory in Adulthood

    Objective: The objective of this study was to examine the enduring effects of retrospective reports of early‐life mother–child interactions on psychosocial and cognitive functioning later in life. Background: Mother–child interactions have been linked to cognitive outcomes in childhood, however, little work has examined whether early‐life mother–child interactions have far‐reaching effects on episodic memory in adulthood. Early‐life mother–child interactions may also influence cognitive functioning in adulthood indirectly through the development of academic competence (education attainment), social competence (marital satisfaction, social support, contact frequency) or depressive symptoms. Methods: Using longitudinal data from the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study sibling respondents (T1: 1993–1994, T2: 2004–2007, T3: 2011; baseline 29–79 years), we examined how retrospective positive mother–child interactions (PMCI) and negative mother–child interactions (NMCI) were independently associated with episodic memory. Structural equation modeling was used to model direct and indirect pathways from PMCI and NMCI to episodic memory and latent change in episodic memory. Results: More PMCI retrospectively reported at T1 were associated with higher T2 memory and less memory decline from T2 to T3 via higher education. In addition, more PMCI were associated with higher T2 memory through greater marital satisfaction. Independent of these indirect effects, more PMCI and NMCI were each associated with higher T2 memory, but not memory change. Conclusion: Mother–child interactions appeared to have an enduring effect on episodic memory in adulthood. These findings highlight the importance of taking an integrative and lifespan approach to assessing how early‐life experiences affect socioemotional and cognitive development.

  • Becoming a First‐Time Grandparent and Subjective Well‐Being: A Fixed Effects Approach

    Objective: In this study, the authors examined how individuals are affected by the change in status to grandparenthood for the first time. Background: Being a grandparent, especially an active and involved grandparent, is positively linked to the well‐being of individuals with grandchildren; however, little is known about how becoming a grandparent affects well‐being. Method: Longitudinal data pooled from 15 countries in Europe (Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe; http://www.share‐ are used to analyze if becoming a grandparent is associated with three measures of subjective well‐being. The authors use fixed effects models to account for unobserved heterogeneity. Results: Becoming a first‐time grandparent is associated with fewer depressive symptoms among women, although there is no evidence for an effect on subjective life expectancy or life satisfaction. For men, there is no evidence for an impact on any outcome tested, although there is an association with increased subjective life expectancy conditional on employment status only if men were employed when transitioning to grandparenthood. The results provide no evidence that actively looking after the grandchild is important for either gender. Conclusion: These results suggest that, at least for women, it is the life transition itself that impacts on some aspects of well‐being rather than active grandchild care. More research is needed to verify these findings in other contexts and for longer periods of time.

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