Other Free Encyclopedias » Medicine Encyclopedia » Aging Healthy - Part 3 » Marital Relationships - Gender Differences In Marriage, Changes In Marital Relationships Over The Life Course, Factors Affecting Marital Relationships In Later Life

Marital Relationships - Factors Affecting Marital Relationships In Later Life

differences retirement women wives quality

Several factors are associated with variation in subjective assessments of marital quality in later life. For example, men are more likely to report high satisfaction with their marriages in later life than are women, highlighting the fact that assessments of marital quality may vary depending on which spouse is asked. Some research further suggests that marital quality tends to be higher for better educated individuals and for people who attend religious services frequently, but lower for people who report less satisfaction with their division of household labor (Karney and Bradbury; Suitor). Perceptions of the fairness in the division of household labor, however, more strongly affect assessments of marital satisfaction among wives than among husbands.

Much attention has been paid to the impact of retirement on marital relationships in later Married on January 18, 1918, Paul and Mary Onesi posed for this photo on their eightieth wedding anniversary, which made them the longest-married couple in the United States at the time. Paul, 101, and Mary, 93, credited their longevity to always talking through their problems. (AP photo by Bill Sikes.) life. Demographic trends such as increasing numbers of women in the workforce and longer life expectancy suggest that retirement is increasingly becoming a couple event, meaning that both husband and wife tend to retire together and adapt simultaneously to each other's retirement (Szinovacz and Ekerdt). Retirement may reduce role conflicts and time constraints experienced by men and women, increase the amount of time couples spend with one another, and offer the potential for a reshuffling of domestic roles. Despite this potential for major change in the context of marital relationships in later life, much research suggests that retirement has little effect on overall levels of marital satisfaction among older couples. Indeed, many studies show that retired couples who are currently happy with their marriages also tended to have been happy with their marriages before they retired. Yet, the context in which retirement occurs is important. For example, marital satisfaction may deteriorate and marital conflict may increase if husbands retire before their wives, perhaps because wives tend to retain responsibility for the majority of household chores (Lee and Shehan). Although many men do increase their participation in household tasks upon retirement, this effort tends to be directed toward projects such as home remodeling or heavy out-door work, leading to little reduction in the daily chores performed by women (Vinick and Ekerdt).

Finally, marital relationships can be affected by changes in the health status of spouses that require one spouse to become the primary care-giver for the other. A large proportion of the research on caregiving's impact on the marital relationship has focused on individuals caring for spouses with dementia, although this literature has also examined other forms of mental and physical impairment. Taken together, this body of research suggests that marital quality and intimacy tend to decline under the strain of deteriorating health and caring for an ill spouse (e.g., Kramer and Lambert; Booth and Johnson). A spouse's poor health appears to have larger negative effects on perceptions of marital quality than does the deterioration of one's own health. Although findings vary across studies, some evidence suggests that caregiving wives are more likely to report strain, depression, and negative feelings toward their marriages than caregiving husbands. These gender differences are more pronounced, however, when the spouse in need of care is cognitively impaired, perhaps because the resulting loss of reciprocity in the marital relationship impacts the well-being of women more than men (Hooker et al.). Wives also tend to provide more care than husbands when their spouses become ill or impaired, which may further explain women's relatively higher level of stress in the caregiving role (Allen).

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