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J Pers Soc Psychol. 2001 Feb;80(2):281-93.

Perceiving unfairness in the family: cause or consequence of marital distress?

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  • 1School of Social Work, Center for Mental Health Services Research, University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15260, USA. nkg@pitt.edu


This research tests a model suggesting that marital distress leads individuals to scrutinize what is given and received in the relationship. This scrutiny elicits perceptions of unfairness that maintain or exacerbate marital distress. In a 3-panel longitudinal study tracking married couples across the transition to parenthood, both wives' and husbands' reports of marital conflict and wives' marital dissatisfaction at Time 1 positively predicted perceived unfairness of the allocation of household tasks at Time 2, controlling for earlier perceptions of unfairness. In addition, there was evidence of perceived unfairness of division of labor at Time 2 predicting marital conflict and marital dissatisfaction for wives at Time 3, controlling for earlier conflict and dissatisfaction. This model of relationship distress and perceptions of unfairness is contrasted with prior interpretations of links between perceived injustice and distress in relationships.

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