Project in detail

Marriage Stability

Members of this project:

Economic approaches in theory-led research on increased divorce rates place particular emphasis on changes in marriage-related benefits over the course of the relationship. In contrast, cultural-normative theories focus on changing values. This project examines to what extent the Frame Selection Theory (FST) can integrate the two approaches. According to the FST, a relationship should be stable – irrespective of the level of individual benefits – if it is linked to a mental model or "frame", which defines it as a steadfast "institution" supported by well-internalized norms. If this frame is disrupted, however, incentive variables may influence relationship stability. Currently we are replicating previous results using the first five waves of the German family panel study "pairfam" (Panel Analysis of Intimate Relationships and Family Dynamics). We find that the association of marital quality and separation or divorce is moderated by strongly internalized norms of dissolubility in the absence of salient problems. The FST provides a theoretical framework that accounts for this finding: When the marital frame is strongly linked to a script that prescribes unconditional stability, partners are likely to not reflect on the quality of their marriage and marital stability will be high. The next project step will be to make more use of the available data in pairfam: We plan to specify a dynamic micro model of marital investment behavior, which we expect to be a function of the mentioned FST parameters as well.

Publications arisen from this project:
  • Hunkler, Christian; Kneip, Thorsten (2010): Die Stabilität von Ehen und nichtehelichen Lebensgemeinschaften. Ein Test des Modells der Frame-Selektion, Sabine Walper & Eva-Verena Wendt, Partnerschaften und die Beziehungen zu Eltern und Kindern: Befunde zur Beziehungs- und Familienentwicklung in Deutschland, Ergon, Würzburg, 181-212

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