Marriage is the institution in society in which a man and woman are joined in a special kind of social and legal dependence to found and maintain a family. It is the building block of human society, and when the foundation of society is weakened, considerable damage results. Therefore, the growth of any society depends largely on the ability of the family institution to perform its role effectively. Due to westernization, urbanization and civilization, marriage has suffered so many breakdowns which can be caused by so many factors such as socio-economic, cultural, legal, social, psycho-social amongst others. The breakdown of marriage among couples gave birth to the rise of marital instability. Marital instability occurs when two couples are no longer in agreement with each other which could result to either separation or divorce. Certain characteristics are therefore attributed to marital instability e.g. low level of communication between spouses, physical confrontation with wife etc. Women are often threatened with the ability to perform and relate effectively in marriage when their husband do not meet to their expectations of what they look forward to in their marital life. It is the things they hold on to, which guide and sustains them throughout their stay in marriage. The feelings and thoughts of the husband not being able to meet up to the wife's expectation therefore grow overtime and affects he social relationship between spouses. Research has shown that a regular occurrence of this would eventually lead to a break down in marriage. It is in this regard that studying the Psycho-social factors influencing marital instability becomes very important. This paper seeks to provide an insight into how psycho-social factors such as spousal communication, spousal's attachment pattern, parental marriage and in-law's involvement affect marriages. The paper is anchored on attachment theory as its main theory vis-a-vis social learning theory and social exchange theory. A study was carried out among ever married women in Ajah, Eti-osa, LGA, Lagos as the cross-sectional survey and non-survey method served as a method of data collection for valid conclusions. The findings of the study showed that psycho-social factors could affect marital instability. Furthermore, there was a relationship between women who had low level of communication with their husband and marital instability. The study also revealed that women's attachment pattern with their husband is not a key determinant to marital instability. It also revealed that women decision making are not necessarily affected by in-laws involvement in marriage. In addition, parental marital background has nothing to do with women when being confronted with marital issues. One of the recommendations proffered was, couple should engage in frequent communication even under unbearable circumstance because it eases off stress and tension.






Front Page                                                                                                                           i

Cover page                                                                                                                           ii         

Certification                                                                                                                         iii

Dedication                                                                                                                            iv

Acknowledgements                                                                                                           v

Table of Content                                                                                                                 vi

Abstract                                                                                                                                x



1.1      Background of the Study                                                                                                 1

1.2      Statement of the Problem                                                                                   7

1.3      Research Questions                                                                                               11

1.4      Objectives of the Study                                                                                        11

1.5      Scope of the Study                                                                                                11

1.6      Significance of the Study                                                                                     12

1.7      Conceptual Clarifications                                                                                     12



2.0      Introduction                                                                                                            15

2.1      Spousal’s Attachment Pattern and Marital Instability                                 16

2.2      Spousal Communication and Marital Instability                                            22

2.3      Parental Marital Background and Marital Instability                                   24

2.4      Inlaw’s Involvement and Marital Instability                                                   28

2.5      Research Hypotheses                                                                                            30



3.0      Introduction                                                                                                            31

3.1      Attachment Theory (A Sociological Theory) by John Bowlby                    31

3.2      Social Learning Theory (A Psychological Theory) by Bandura                  33

3.3      Social Exchange Theory (A Sociological Theory) by Peter Blau                 35

3.4      Test of Hypothesis                                                                                     37



4.0      Research Methodology                                                                                        38

4.1      The Research Design                                                                                             38

4.2      The Study Location                                                                                                38

4.3      The Study Population                                                                                           39

4.4      Sample Size                                                                                                              39

4.5      Sampling Technique                                                                                              39

4.6      Research Instruments                                                                                           41

4.7      Method of Data Analysis                                                                                      43



5.0      Data Presentation, Analysis and Interpretation                                            44

5.1      Section A: Socio-Demographic Characteristics of Respondent                 44

5.2      Section B: Experience of Marital Instability of Respondents                      47

5.3      Section C: Spousal Communication of the Respondents                             50

5.4      Section D: Issues in Parental Marital Background of the

Respondents                                                                                                            53

5.5      Section E: Attachment Pattern of the Respondents                                     57

5.6      Section F: In-Law's Involvement in the Marriage Of The

Respondents                                                                                                            60

5.7      Test of Hypotheses                                                                                                63



6.1      Summary                                                                                                                  69

6.2      Conclusion                                                                                                               70

6.3      Recommendations                                                                                                 71

            References                                                                                                               73

            Appendix                                                                                                                  83

            Questionnaire                                                                                                         84







According to Gove (1986), marriage is described as the state of being united with a person of the opposite sex as husband or wife; the institution whereby men and women are joined in a special kind of social and legal dependence for the purpose founding and maintaining a family; an act of marrying or rite by which the married status is affected. It is the building block of human society, and when the foundation of society is weakened, considerable damage results. Therefore, the growth of any society depends largely on the ability of the family institution to perform its role effectively.


Ayodele (2001) defines marriage as the union of a man and his wife in body and soul. It is the institution in society in which a man and woman are joined in a special kind of social and legal dependence to found and maintain a family. Notwithstanding, the purpose for marriage is far more important than the mere legalized sexual relationship among spouses (Agbutuin, 1990). To this end, Yahaya (1998) opined that in marriage, there are lots of stresses, bitterness, failures and successes. Other factors that threaten marital stability include age of marriage, educational level of spouse, religion, income, type of marriage, fertility status, kind of family background of spouses, communication, culture, etc. From the foregoing, a lot of researches on marital instability show that many factors are responsible for the misnomer in marital union.


The term marital instability is used to refer to the process whereby marriages break down through separation, desertion or divorce and where relevant to the subsequent re-partnering of the individual are concerned. Separation and legal divorce are social phenomenon which is caused by the couples involved, and which could either result from social, economic, psychological or cultural phenomenon. Many marriages remain shaky for a very long time; some of them recover equilibrium and become cohesive again, this shaky period may lead to separation.


Nearly everyone begins their marriage with a high level of satisfaction with their relationship and a high level of optimism for the future. Yet, marriages end in a divorce for many couples, while marital satisfaction declines over time for even more couples. People tend to fall prey to the confirmation bias, they tend to be more optimistic about themselves than for other, and they tend to interpret facts in a way that supports their desired view of the world.


There are hundreds of factors which are responsible for marital instability in the world today. They range from several factors; social issues, psychological issues, economical issues, cultural issue, biological issues, emotional issues, spiritual issues, amongst others. Even some are as a result of the combination of two factors. The term ‘marital instability’ is a very vast and broad topic. Therefore focusing on a key factor responsible for marital instability can give us a good guide on what the term "marital instability" is all about.


Women's relationship with their partners is grounded on several factors best known to them (Psychological expectations some of which includes; regular income, sexual satisfaction, paternal responsibility and equity). These factors are what they take to their relationship which serves as homeostasis. It is the things they hold on to, which guide and sustains them throughout their stay in marriage. Women are usually satisfied in marriage when their needs are being met by their husband, and when their expectations and desires are being met and satisfied. Now, when there's a conflict between the expectations of a woman in marriage and the present outcome, this would definitely lead to a breakdown in their social interaction with their spouse. At this stage, women tend to be so stubborn, inconsiderate, less communicative and unresponsive to their partner. Indirectly, this is to say that their psychosocial system now shapes their behaviour. Research has shown that a regular occurrence of this would eventually lead to a break down in marriage.


Psychosocial factors as a phenomenon are behavioural issues which arise from problems or social problems in a society which shapes or affects the social functioning of an individual in society. Psychosocial factors deals majorly with the study of how and why people think, feel and do the things they do depending upon the situation they are in. It involves studying the impact that the social environment and group interactions have on people's attitudes and behaviours towards others. Having said all that, psychosocial factors are those factors that are responsible for the behavioural change of an individual toward a person or groups of persons. Therefore, the word “psychosocial” in this context can best be explained as; how a woman's personal behaviour about situations in marriage affects her external behaviour towards her husband.


This study will therefore be aimed at looking at the some of the psychosocial factors that influences marital instability. It aims to breakdown these factors and explain how and why women act the way they do before marital dissolutions. Also, to look deeply into the consequences an implications of these and how they affect the development of any society. The psychosocial factors that will be examined therefore are; level of spousal communication, type of attachment patterns between spouses, parental marital background of the wife, and lastly, rate of in-law's involvement.


Spousal Communication as a social factor involves the communication pattern that goes between a woman and her husband. Communication therefore can be seen as "the imparting or interchange of thoughts, opinions, or information by speech, writing, or signs". It can also be referred to as the process used by people to create and manage relationships. A marriage without effective communication is likely to crumble. Communication is a life wire of marriage relationship or any other meaningful relationship (Esere, 2002, 2006). Spousal communication is a critical element in marriage as it is an inevitable requirement before the commencement of the relationship and also necessary for the sustenance of the union. Communication is the heart of intimate human relationship and the foundation on which all other relationships are built; they also assert that it is the key to a successful couple relationship. In fact, the ability and the willingness to communicate have been found to be among the most important factors in maintaining a satisfying relationship.


Attachment pattern as a psychosocial factor is very important in any marriage. A growing number of studies suggest that, among individuals in relationships, attachment style/pattern is a significant predictor of relationship satisfaction. In Bowlby's work on attachment pattern, there are two major categories of attachment pattern between two individuals in a relationship, and he also laid emphasis on the categories of attachment pattern that could either sustain or destroy a particular relationship. These patterns are secure attachment pattern and insecure attachment pattern. The secure attachment simply explains that, a partner with this type of attachment pattern are open to people, extroverts in nature, share feelings with their partners; securely attached adults would be more tolerant, less reactive, and prefer smaller interpersonal distances. Insecure attachment pattern on the other hand is categorized into two; the avoidant attachment pattern and the ambivalent attachment pattern. An avoidant and ambivalent attached individuals seek emotional distance and extreme closeness, respectively. When a woman is loosely attached to her husband, such woman tend to share secrets, find difficulty in sharing marital problems, such individual can hardly cope or bear unplanned circumstances.


Parental marital background of a particular partner is a psychosocial factor that shapes and develops one's personality as one grows. As certain behaviours, characteristics and traits are said to be emulated from either the father or the mother. It is also of importance to know that the parental marital background of an individual greatly shapes a couples perception about life, perception of other people and how to cope and deal with situations that arises from one's social environment. The effect of parental marital background on individuals is quite worrisome these days, as some researchers have tried drawing a link between a partner's parental marital background and their stability in marriage. The word `family background' would have been more preferable but the context is very broad as it entails issues like, single parent, family structure (polygamous e.t.c), educational background, literacy level, parental marital background, family's social and economic status. Therefore, the area of interest to me is parental marital background. Some researchers have gone to the point of showing a clear relationship between a partner whose parent has either separated, divorced or being single and their stability in marriage with their future partners. Women whose parents have separated or divorced tend to have- higher level of marital instability than their male counterpart, and the reason why this is so cannot still be fully explained, as there are result which also shows that men are as well influenced by their parental marital background which affects their marital stability.


In-Law's Involvement in marriages, is a psychological trend that runs through so many families all over the world today, leading to serious damages in any dyadic relationship. Marriages are meant for two and not three; decisions in marriages are meant for two and not three, because most times, the presence or interference of a third person in marriage is often powerful than even the two partners involve, as a partner might be influenced by the third party. According to Bowen (1978) and Friedman (1985), the involvement of a third party in a relationship is as a way of diffusing some of the pressure and tension between the couple and can have a negative effect on the couple's relationship. One major problem most women find hard to cope with in marriage is, when the husband is not strong enough to confront her, scold her, and talk to her but rather reporting to his in-law without her consent. This problem affects most women psychologically, and therefore shapes their interaction to their husband and their marriage socially. At this point, most marriages are usually irredeemable.




Overtime in the history of marriage, women have been known to be the major problems of marital instability in every home, because society sees them as solely responsible for every marital instability in society. In some relationships, some women often claim they feel cheated, neglected, uncared for, maltreated or abused by their husbands, therefore they prefer being independent or getting a new life with a man who would show them affection, love, care, support; a man who would understand the way they think, show empathy, a man who can communicate effectively with them, a man who can meet their emotional and sexual needs and also, a man who can take good care of them and more importantly, they would love to create a life of their own without any interference from anyone. All these factors, put together affects women's decision and attitude in marriage, and also shapes their thoughts which and makes them either submissive or responsive in marriage or vice-versa.


In essence, psychosocial factors influencing marital instability arises from the way women observe situations in marriages in respect to their feelings, thoughts, belief, culture and personality. Now, when there's a conflict or misunderstanding between a woman's feelings, thoughts, belief, culture, personality and her spouse, she tend to create behaviours, attitudes and certain responses which then shapes her social behaviour towards her spouse, and as a result of this, terms like marital disengagement, marital dissolution, marital instability, divorce come to being.


Communication in every relationship is very essential to the partners involved, as a breakdown in the communication processor pattern between two spouses could result to deep crises between both partners. Studies have revealed that one of the top five issues generating conflict in marriage is communication (Ekot and Usoro, 2006; Anyakoha and James, 2004). The level of spousal communication between couple often determine the success and failure of that marriage. Tanner (1990) in Santrock (2002) observed that lack of communication was high on women's reasons for divorce whereas for men it was insignificant. This is to say that certain life situations between a woman and her husband influences the rate of spousal communication between them. This 'situations could either be positive or negative, but whichever way it is, a woman's communication with her spouse could either be psychological or social.


Due to economic hardship from complex economies/societies, spousal's attachment seems to be declining on a daily basis. Most women complain of their spouse being unresponsive to some of their basic needs, not given them equal right to decision making and other important areas that has to do with both partners. Some of the presumed causes of these factors include; stress, giving more time to work over relationship, sexual dysfunction amongst others, and the effects of these on women includes; change in attitude and behaviour, engaging in more social activities and finally holding onto certain marital issues which could further lead to the disintegration of the marriage. It is of great importance to first of all understand that the attachment pattern of any individual originates from the type of attachment pattern that has been adopted in the early stages of childhood, that is, between a child and a primary care giver (parents). These early parental care experiences then gives rise to an internal working model of oneself and others, which form a basis for generating expectations about future relationships and provide a context for interpreting what happens in those relationships (Bowlby, 1973). Having discussed the types of attachment pattern in the introduction, the two sub categories of attachment pattern in women that can give rise to marital instability, are the avoidant attachment pattern and the ambivalent attachment pattern. Women within these attachment pattern often possess ‘I don't care’ attitudes; feelings of what other people are of emotionally concerned about, is usually of no importance to women under these categories. Thus, this is to say that early attachment have a profound effect on people's relationships throughout their entire lives.


One major problem women often battle in marriage is their parental marital background. The background of several women in marriage contributes immensely to the success and failure of many marriages in Nigeria today as a person's parental marital background is where the moral lesson and social behaviours of life are being learnt and emulated. Most behaviours and attitudes of women in marriages today are as a result of how their mother or father behaved or how either of them solved certain life situations in the past and also; the way of life of this parents. Some research has also shown that most women whose parent had experienced divorce or marital instability also have the probability of going through the same. Though individuals have a choice of which lifestyle they would love to emulate and which not to.


Parental marital instability as part of a person's family background, is something that affects most women without them being aware of its prevalence and how it shapes their interaction with spouse. Most women whose parents had problems with their marriages are most times trying to be careful not to experience the same. Now, in the cause of avoiding marital breakup, they either become tolerant, intolerant, too reactive or slow to react to certain behaviours from their husband, as life as placed a stigma of fear of the unknown in their psyche. It is from a person's family background, cultures and tradition are passed from parents to offspring; fear and confidence are instilled into the way we relate with people; lifestyles and personalities of a parent one has more affection for is being inculcated into our day to day way of life. Problems therefore arise when a spouse is in conflict with the other's belief system of their parental marital background, which affects their psyche and influences their interaction with their spouse and could therefore result to marital instability.


Diversity in culture and tradition is more of the reason why most women prefer their husband’s in-laws, parents and so on to stay away from their marriage. But this is not to say this is exactly why some women discourage in-law or parental involvement in their marriages, as there are some other reasons responsible for this. Women often feel there is the tendency of their husband's in-laws making certain decisions or enforcing laws on their husbands most especially

when they are seen as one big family. Some in-law's even go to the extent of coming over to the husband's house every weekends to see if the husband is being treated well, fed well and respected by the wife; some even go to the point of organizing family meetings all in the name of ensuring a peaceful home. Couple's often place a higher priority on their relationship with their marital partners and individuate/differentiate with some of the close attachments that they may have formed with parents, children, siblings and relatives (Bowen, 1978; Bray 1995; Mace 1989).



1)          Does the level of spousal communication influences marital instability?

2)          Is parental marital instability a predominant factor that influences marital instability?

3)          Which spousal's attachment pattern is more liable to influence marital instability?

4)          Does the rate of in-law's involvement in marriage behavioural change in women?



This study will be carried out to determine the psychosocial factors that influence marital instability with the specific objectives stated below;

1.     To examine whether the level of spousal's communication would influence marital instability.

2.     To know whether parental marital instability of women contributes to their decision making which may result to marital instability.

3.     To know what kind of spousal attachment patterns in marriage influences marital instability.

4.     To examine if the rate of in-law's involvement in marriage influences women's behaviour which may result to marital instability.



This study is focusing mainly on four psychosocial factors influencing married women before the occurrence of marital instability. These four factors are; attachment patterns, spousal communication, parental marital background, and in-law's involvement and how it influences marital instability are adequately examined.



It is becoming a regular occurrence in the society today to see marriages coming to an abrupt end. Therefore, this study seeks to help an individual in understanding the various psychosocial factors affecting marital instability, which could eventually lead to dissolution or disintegration among couples. This project therefore aims at unveiling the psychosocial factors which poses a threat to marital instability and the society at large. This study will therefore be of great importance to different social welfare institutions, families, women, because conclusion gotten from this research, could serve as a road map to whatever goals that are been developed by these organization. Another great importance is that, social workers can be of great help in marital counseling agencies or institutions by counseling and cautioning women or both parties on the signs and symbols that are likely to cause marital instability.



Marriage: A socially and religious approved union between a male and a female by which they are legally and morally entitled to sexual relationship, bear and rear children thereby, establishing a family of their own; It is the union of a man and a woman who makes a permanent and exclusive commitment to each other of the type that is naturally fulfilled by bearing and rearing children together, and renewed by acts that constitute the behavioural path process of production.


Instability: The quality or condition of being unstable. It can also be seen as an unusually and unnaturally large fluctuation that may lead to serious damage or failure; if allowed to continue beyond a certain limit.


Marital instability: It is an unusual or unnatural large fluctuation that occurs in a marriage (between a man and a woman) that may therefore lead to serious damage or system failure in the family, if allowed to continue beyond a certain limit.


Divorce: Termination or dissolution of a legal marriage. According to Dr. Dawn Taylor, it is what happens when people decide not to be married to each other anymore. A divorce legally ends a marriage and people are free to marry other people if they want to.


Psychosocial: The word psychosocial is gotten from Social Psychology; it is a field that seeks to understand the nature and causes of individual's behavior and thought in social situations. Social psychology is an attempt to understand and explain how the thought, feeling and behaviour of individuals is influenced by the actual, imagined or implied presence of others.

Attachment Pattern
: is the bond that develops between a baby and its primary caregiver. It is characterized by the interaction patterns which develop in order to fulfill the infants’ needs and emotional development. This pattern therefore shapes future relationships.

In-law's involvement: this refers to the interference of an individual in a couple's marital affair; person or persons could either be from the husband's family, the wife's family or even a friend.


Parental Marital Background: this concept explains the level of marital disruption in a parent's marriage, and its level of influence on the married couple during the lifespan of marriage.

Spousal communication:
This concept describes the day to day pattern of communication between couples. The pattern of both verbal and nonverbal communication often describes the level of relationship in any marriage.

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