Marital Well-Being and Depression in Chinese Marriage: Going Beyond Satisfaction and Ruling Out Critical Confounders

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Abstract

Based on data obtained from 203 Chinese couples during the early years of marriage and utilizing the actor–partner interdependence model, this study examined the prospective associations between different aspects of marital well-being (i.e., marital satisfaction, instability, commitment, and closeness) and depressive symptoms (assessed 2 years later) while controlling for critical intrapersonal (i.e., neuroticism and self-esteem) and contextual (i.e., stressful life events) confounders. Results indicated that (a) when considering different aspects of marital well-being as predictors of depressive symptoms separately, each aspect was significantly associated with spouses’ own subsequent depressive symptoms; (b) when examining various aspects of marital well-being simultaneously, only husbands’ commitment, husbands’ instability, and wives’ instability were significantly associated with their own subsequent depressive symptoms above and beyond the other aspects; and (c) the associations between husbands’ commitment, husbands’ instability, and wives’ instability and their own subsequent depressive symptoms remained significant even after controlling for potential major intrapersonal and contextual confounders. Such findings (a) provide evidence that the marital discord model of depression may apply to Chinese couples, (b) highlight the importance of going beyond marital (dis)satisfaction when examining the association between marital well-being and depression, and (c) demonstrate that marital well-being can account for unique variance in depressive symptoms above and beyond an array of intrapersonal and contextual risk factors.

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