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J Fam Psychol. 2011 Jun;25(3):345-55. doi: 10.1037/a0023653.

Workload and the trajectory of marital satisfaction in newlyweds: job satisfaction, gender, and parental status as moderators.

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Utrecht University, Department of Social and Organizational Psychology, Utrecht, The Netherlands.


Stress, on average, is bad for relationships. Yet stress at work is not always associated with negative relationship outcomes. The premise of the current study was that associations between workload and trajectories of marital satisfaction depend on circumstances that may constrain or facilitate partners' ability to negotiate their multiple roles. We hypothesized that the covariance between changes in workload and marital satisfaction over time should be moderated by (a) the extent to which spouses like their work, (b) their parental status, and (c) their gender. Analyses drawing upon eight waves of data on workload, work satisfaction, and marital satisfaction from 169 newlywed couples assessed over four years confirmed these predictions. Specifically, across couples, demands at work covaried positively with marital satisfaction for spouses who were more satisfied with their jobs. For nonparent couples, increases in husbands' workload covaried with increases in marital satisfaction for both spouses. For parent couples, however, increases in husbands' workload covaried with declines in marital satisfaction for both spouses. Unexpectedly, for parent couples, increases in wives' workload corresponded with increased marital satisfaction. Finally, consistent with predictions, wives were more affected by their husbands' workload than vice versa. Thus, tension between work and marriage is not inevitable, instead depending on circumstances that facilitate or impair performance in multiple roles. Couples, employers, and practitioners should recognize the role that external circumstances play in determining how work and marital life interact.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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