Longitudinal Links Between Work Experiences and Marital Satisfaction in African American Dual-Earner Couples

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Abstract

This study assessed associations between both work demands (pressure, hours) and work resources (self-direction) and marital satisfaction in a sample of 164 African American dual-earner couples who were interviewed annually across 3 years. Grounded in the work–home resources and family systems frameworks, results from longitudinal actor–partner interdependence models (APIM) revealed main effects of spouses’ work experiences on their own marital satisfaction, but these effects were qualified by the interactive effects of spouses’ and partners’ work experiences. Some interactive effects were consistent with an amplifying pattern, for example that, beyond the main effects of actor self-direction, marital satisfaction was highest when both spouses experienced high work self-direction. Other effects were consistent with a comparative pattern, such that shorter work hours were linked to lower marital satisfaction only when partners worked longer hours. Gender moderation also was evident in findings that wives’ work pressure was negatively linked to marital satisfaction only when their husbands reported high pressure, but husbands’ work pressure was negatively linked to marital satisfaction only when their wives reported low pressure. This study advances understanding of work–marriage linkages in African American couples, an understudied group with a distinctive connection to the labor force. Analyses demonstrate what can be learned from investigating the couple as a unit and illustrate how family systems concepts can be addressed via APIM.

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