Intimate relationships provide emotional support and companionship that can result in many positive psychological health benefits. But often, marriage can be a source of stress. For African-American couples, the success of their relationships can be significantly influenced by specific factors, including income and education. In a recent study, Carolyn E. Cutrona of the Department of Psychology at Iowa State University used the vulnerability-stress-adaptation model of adaptive processes, stressful life events and enduring vulnerabilities to gauge marital stability in African-American couples. “Of particular interest in the current study was the cascading influence of enduring vulnerability factors,” said Cutrona. “Enduring vulnerabilities are characteristics (e.g., low education level) that influence peoples’ susceptibility to stressful life events and their ability to interact effectively in their relationships.”
The participants were 207 couples that were either married or living together, raising one elementary school aged child. Cutrona and her team assessed financial strain, income, education, relationship quality and religiosity at the beginning of the study and again five years later. She found that the vulnerability factors most significantly predicted the success or dissolution of the relationships. Cutrona said, “Higher levels of education were associated with higher income, lower financial strain, and family structures that research has shown to be more stable (marriage rather than cohabitation and biological-family rather than step-family status). These variables, in turn, influenced relationship quality and stability. Religiosity, an important resource in the lives of African-Americans, promoted relationship stability through its association with marriage, biological-family status, and women’s relationship quality.” Cutrona believes these findings underscore the impact of social conditions on the success of these relationships and hopes these results will provide direction for clinicians treating these couples. She added, “Programs to assist couples with blended families are needed, and incorporation of spirituality into culturally sensitive relationship interventions for African-American couples may also prove beneficial.”
Cutrona, Carolyn E., Daniel W. Russell, Rebecca G. Burzette, Kristin A. Wesner, and Chalandra M. Bryant. “Predicting Relationship Stability among Midlife African American Couples.” Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 79.6 (2011): 814-25. Print.
© Copyright 2011 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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