The effect of children on marital happiness, evidence from a longitudinal sample from the United States

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Tsang, Laura Lo Wa
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This study employed longitudinal data from the United States to investigate how children negatively affect marital quality and to explore mitigating factors such as dual-earner status and sex role traditionalism that change those negative effects. The data set used was Marital Instability Over the Life Course (United States): A Three Wave Panel Study, 1980-1988 (Booth, Johnson, White, & Edwards, 1995) available from the Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research database. A subset of 1275 respondents who remained married throughout the three waves was used to compare the level of marital happiness of respondents who added children between waves to those who did not. Although the addition of children negatively affects marital structure and thus indirectly lowers marital happiness, results showed it also has positive counterbalancing direct effects. In addition, dual-earner status, income, and sex role nontraditionalism were shown to mitigate against the negative effects of children.