From Dr. Jane's Notebook

The Role of Kids and Religion in Marital Satisfaction

As described in recent articles, I have been attempting to crack the code on marital satisfaction through my recent research at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. So far, we have discussed the role of lovingness and loyalty in a marriage. In this discussion, we’ll address the role of satisfaction with family and religion in the marriage.

In order to survive, families need certain structures and elements in their lives. They need a means of economic security, an effective sharing of family roles, the ability to solve their problems, and a host of emotional resources. Our research found that couples were most satisfied when they shared similar ideas about family roles, were able to solve problems together one path to marital satisfaction looked at the importance of children and religion the relationship between

Ideally, couples share a similar value system and want to work together to raise their children. This research suggests that couples must agree about the importance of children and they must be satisfied with their roles as parents in order to be satisfied in the marriage.

Ideally, couples agree with each other both about the importance of having children and on their satisfaction with their parental status at the moment. Ideally, they will agree about whether the time is right, and they will co-create the family they have planned.

Having a family is a "couple " thing. Spouses need each other’s help to raise a child, and children need two healthy and happy parents. As a family, members will hopefully provide economic, physical and emotional security to each other throughout life.

Marital satisfaction can be achieved when mates are synchronized in re more important to one spouse than the other, Marital satisfaction is most easily achieved when spouses are in agreement about the importance of children and each person’s current level of satisfaction.

For example, couples may disagree about the timing of parenthood, styles of parenting, developmental readiness, all of which can make things miserable. Once children are in the picture, parenting is for life. These days, couples are wise to discuss their before desire to be part of a couple. If two spouses are deciding whether or not to have children, it is important that they agree about this lifelong decision. Problems arise when the individual spouses disagree about the importance of children.

Long, long ago, the fairy-tale life was laid out such that two young people got married, expecting to stay together for life. After a few years of marriage, during which they got to know each other and plan a life together, they mutually decided to become parents, and were ready to face the joys and pains of their life-long responsibility as parents.

Fortunately, because this fairy tale included nannies and servants, couples were able to divide their time between their many family roles, allowing them to find a comfortable balance in the time they took for each of their life tasks. As individuals, each parent as parents, and as spouses in their marriage. and assumed Perhaps the most serious disagreement that a couple can have, is whether or not to become parents. After all, the decision to have a child is an agreement to assume a lifelong responsibility which is highly labor-intensive and demanding. Also, because parenting is forever, the decision to have a child has a dramatic impact on marital relationships. Parents must therefore be mature enough to take care of both their child, and their marital relationship.

Do children help or hinder marriages? Early research on marriage showed that couples experienced a distinct decrease in marital satisfaction during the child-rearing years, which then frequently improved during the empty-nest stage of life after the children had left home. From these findings, some researchers concluded that raising children negatively impacts marital satisfaction. Further research, however, has suggested that marital satisfaction is more complex than that.

While instincts alone can lead to marriages and children, it is necessary to learn how to be a good parent and a good spouse. Today, a variety of programs are available to assist couples in improving relationship skills and improved parenting skills. What’s more, the act of engaging in activities designed to improve relationship skills also offers a unique bonding experience for couples.

The role of religion in marital satisfaction. While most dating and engaged couples deny that their religious differences are important, our research showed that religious beliefs greatly influence long-term marital satisfaction. In this research, religion was considered from two distinct perspectives: Faith in God, and Religious Commitment. Results suggested that marital satisfaction is largely based upon the relative importance of faith in God, and satisfaction with the family’s role in their religious community. So, even if religion is not important to either spouse, but they agree on their views, it is likely that they will be satisfied. The problem is that before marriage, religious differences are often minimized, and not discussed until after childbirth. Oftentimes, religion becomes such a point of conflict that parents end up playing tug-of-war for the child’s religious upbringing.

The research described here was conducted as part of my dissertation, "The relationship between marital characteristics, marital interaction processes, and marital satisfaction". I am grateful to Dr. Jane E. Myers and other faculty members at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro for their guidance, support and encouragement on this project.

ęCopyright, 1999, Jane R. Rosen-Grandon. All rights reserved.

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Last Updated June 5, 1999 by Gary M. Grandon, Ph.D.