Different worlds? : asymmetry in graduate student marriages Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/2801pk541

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  • That graduate study is detrimental to marriages has received empirical support. This study utilized systems theory to examine and help explain the dissolution process of graduate student marriages. Specifically, it examined the impact of marital structure on perceptions of marital quality. Drawing primarily from Scheinkman's (1988) qualitative study, spouses in asymmetrical marriages (i.e., marriages where only one spouse is in graduate school), as opposed to symmetrical marriages (i.e., marriages where both spouses are in graduate school), were hypothesized to report (a) less satisfaction with the division of household labor, (b) lower perceptions of equity, and (c) less satisfaction with emotional intimacy. These, in turn, were hypothesized to lower perceptions of marital quality. Participants from a list of master's and doctoral-level students at a west coast university in the United States were randomly selected and contacted by phone. Only married students and their partners were solicited for participation. The final sample consisted of 121 married individuals (60 husband-wife pairs, 1 female) who responded to a mailed questionnaire. Of these 121 respondents, 85 were involved in asymmetrical arrangements and 36 in symmetrical arrangements. Contrary to expectations, asymmetry did not indirectly (and negatively) affect marital quality through satisfaction with the division of household labor and perception of equity. There was, however, some evidence that asymmetry negatively influenced marital quality by lowering spouses' satisfaction with emotional intimacy. This latter finding was considered to be meaningfully significant because satisfaction with emotional intimacy was by far the strongest predictor of marital quality. The findings are discussed primarily in terms of the education level of each spouse. Reconceptualizing asymmetry as an educational or power differential, or even more generally as a difference in emotional experiences, is recommended. In other words, it is not the number of spouses in school per se that matters; it is the understanding and emotional connectedness between them.
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