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The Intergenerational Transmission of Marital Instability Reconsidered

Ellen F. Greenberg and W. Robert Nay
Journal of Marriage and Family
Vol. 44, No. 2 (May, 1982), pp. 335-347
DOI: 10.2307/351543
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/351543
Page Count: 13
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The Intergenerational Transmission of Marital Instability Reconsidered
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Abstract

National survey data reveal that children from marriages that were disrupted during their childhood have a higher rate of divorce than children from intact marriages. The present study investigates two hypotheses to account for this phenomenon. These include the adoption of: (a) marriage-related attitudes antagonistic to successful marital adjustment and (b) maladaptive styles of marital interaction. The findings derived from questionnaire data tapping marriage-related attitudes, dating experience, and conflict resolution skills (evaluated on the basis of responses to filmed vignettes of marital conflict) supported the first hypothesis. The only notable difference that emerged among the 397 college students from intact (happy-unbroken versus unhappy-unbroken), separated/divorced, or parent-deceased families was in the direction of the separated/divorced group espousing the most favorable attitude toward divorce. The findings suggest a disinhibitory effect of parental divorce on children's attitudes toward divorce. Parental separation proved to be no more harmful to child adjustment than a conflict-ridden intact home. Contrary to past research, however, there was no meaningful effect of age at time of marital disruption.

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