Stability of Partnerships and Marriages (STAB)

Project Management: Prof. Dr. Paul B. Hill

Project Collaborator: Dr. Oliver Arránz Becker; Dipl. -Math. Andrea Old Post

Project Funding: German Research Foundation, DFG for short

Funding period: May 1 2004 to April 30, 2008

Funding Amount: approximately 171,000 euros

The STAB project is embedded in an interdisciplinary collaborative project (the priority program 1161: Relationship and Family Development), which is funded by the DFG as a long-term cooperation of numerous German research locations.

Objectives of the DFG Priority Program Relationship and Family Development

The main objective of the established research network is to identify and empirically demonstrate the processes responsible for the development of partnerships and marriages, for different forms of development as well as for the survival and termination of partnerships and marriages. On the one hand, different endogenous processes such as individual partner search behaviour, the decision to start a family or the significance of conflicts are described; on the other hand, exogenous factors, for example the importance of social networks or professional mobility requirements, are examined in their effects on the design and development of couple relationships.
The data will be collected by means of a large representative sample (family panel) of three age cohorts, from which 4000 respondents are recruited (N = 12,000). In the current preparatory phase, standardized questionnaires are being developed, evaluated by means of test statistical procedures and compiled into a scale inventory. The resulting survey instrument will then be used in the interviews in the main survey phase scheduled for six years from 2008 (see the following schedule).

The Research Project Stability of Partnerships and Marriages: STAB

The STAB project aims specifically at describing and explaining the stability of partnerships and marriages. The stability criterion is on the one hand the formal status of the partnership, which can have various characteristics - together versus separated, married versus divorced and so on. On the other hand, subjective relationship stability is used as a central concept, which also allows differentiated gradations between high stability and separation/divorce.
What influences on partnership stability can theoretically be expected? Numerous studies have shown that marital stability varies in reverse u-shaped over the duration of the relationship (sickle function) and is influenced by various pair-specific and exogenous processes. Therefore, a general model for explaining the stability of relations had to be developed. This follows on from well-known theoretical perspectives and sees the central explanatory constructs in the alternatives on the marriage market, the search behaviour, the fit of the partners, the commitment to the relationship, the investments, the satisfaction, the (perceived) alternatives to the existing relationship as well as the barriers against dissolution of the relationship.
The hypotheses are based on the assumption that alternatives on the marriage market and partner search behaviour determine the matching of partners. This in turn favours a strong cognitive framing of the partnership and the emergence of commitment feelings (commitment) and promotes the readiness and realization of material and immaterial investments in the relationship; an example of a material investment is larger joint purchases, intangible investments in the partnership arise, for example, through children. High investments in turn increase the profit from the partnership/marriage in relation to another partnership or to single life and are therefore decisively responsible for the partnership satisfaction. A high degree of satisfaction and a high gain in marriage ensure the stability of the partnership, especially if the alternatives to the relationship are perceived as inferior in quality and the barriers to separation are perceived as high.

First Project Phase: May 1, 2004 to April 30, 2006

In the first project phase, suitable interview questions were developed for all concepts contained in the research model and evaluated according to established scientific criteria within the framework of several pre-tests. This enabled a questionnaire to be generated for the measurement of the model constructs shown above. After successful preliminary tests, the instrument was introduced into the panel survey of the DFG Priority Programme and tested there under field conditions.

Second Project Phase: May 1, 2006 to April 30, 2008

In the second project phase, three data collection phases were carried out at four locations - Bremen, Munich, Mannheim and Chemnitz. The primary targets of the survey were a total of 600 randomly selected men and women from three predetermined birth cohorts (1968-70,1978-80,1988-90). If the target persons were in a non-marital partnership or marriage at the time of the survey, their partners were also interviewed if they were willing to participate. In this way, 215 complete pair interviews were realized for the first phase of the survey. At a total of three points of investigation - autumn 2005, spring 2006 and autumn 2006 - these people were repeatedly questioned on different topics from the area of partnership and family. The main objective of the second phase of the STAB research project was to carry out comprehensive quantitative data analyses, which in particular investigate factors that determine the dissolution or continued existence of partnerships.