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THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN MARITAL SATISFACTION, FAMILY RELATION AND PSYCHOLOGICAL DISTRESS
Marital satisfaction is no longer a given in today’s world, with different factors contributing to the poor marital quality experienced in most marriages. This study attempted to find out if there is any relationship between factors affecting marriages. Participants were chosen via purposive sampling, where married people were the intended target. Marital satisfaction, family relations and psychological distress were carefully examined to see if there is any relationship between them. Also, gender differences in marital satisfaction and psychological distress were also examined. The differences in reported marital satisfaction between old and young individuals were also examined, using a total sample size of 200 (N=200). Results showed that there were differences between males and females in psychological distress but not on marital satisfaction. Older people also reported higher levels of marital satisfaction compared to younger people. Implications for the study include a deeper understanding into family dynamics and association of family life to psychological distress. Implications for this study show that families and married couples should be helped to achieve higher marital satisfaction and family relations in order to reduce the onset of psychological distress, and the gender of the spouse in no way affects the ability to enjoy a happy family life
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Title Page i
Table of contents v
CHAPTER ONE: INTRODUCTION 1
1.1 Background to the study
1.2 Statement of the problem.
1.3 Objectives of the study
1.4 Research questions
1.5 Research hypothesis
1.6 Scope of the study
1.7 Significance of the study
1.8 Operational definitions of variables
CHAPTER TWO: LITERATURE REVIEW
2.1 Gender Differences in Psychological Distress
2.2 Marital satisfaction
2.3 Components and mechanisms of marital satisfaction
2.3.2 Social support
2.3.4 Contextual factors
2.4 Marital satisfaction and age
2.5 Marriage, gender, and health
2.6 Marital satisfaction over time
2.7 Leisure and satisfaction with family life
2.8 Theoretical framework
2.8.1 Gender role theory
2.8.2 Response bias theory
2.8.3 Family role theory
2.8.4 The Circumflex Model
2.9 Empirical review
CHAPTER THREE: RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
3.2 Research Design
3.3 Study location
3.4 Sample Selection and Characteristics
3.5 Research Instruments
3.7 Data collection and Scoring
3.8 Data analysis
CHAPTER FOUR: DATA ANALYSIS
4.1 Presentation of Data
CHAPTER FIVE: SUMMARY, CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS
5.2 Summary of findings
5.6 Recommendations for Further Studies
It is often believed that when an individual is married, it is an opportunity to share life’s problems with someone, and have that someone help you get back on your feet in times where you seem to be at your lowest ebb. After all, the vows exchanged at the wedding have a certain phrase that reads “for better for worse, in sickness and health”, and it is expected that the couple will provide much needed solace for each other in time of difficulty. But is this really the case in contemporary society today? Granted, in the African context, the institution of marriage is one which cannot be broken easily, with a lot of expectation being set for the new family by friends, well-wishers and society in general. According to Abraham Maslow (1957), one primary need of man, is the need for love and belongingness, without which, according to him, the individual cannot continue on to the path of self-actualization. It is sometimes because of this and the need for attention, that drive most people to seek the comfort of the other mate and in the process, shield the individual from psychological distress, which could take many forms which will be discussed in details later on. However, it is becoming increasing evident that this is no longer the case.
Reports have shown that due to many factors, such as violence in relationships, family relations and in some extreme cases, the use of technology could play a significant role in causing psychological distress to any one (Sharaievska. I 2012). As a result, a lot of research has gone into finding out if there are any correlates between satisfaction in marital life, and psychological distress. Research has shown that the quality of an individual’s marital relationship could be a determinant in diagnosing depression in married couples (Mamun, A., Clavarino, A., Najman, J., Williams, G., O’ Callaghan, J, Bor, W., 2009). Psychological stress could be any emotional turmoil which directly interferes with the individual’s capacity of function at optimal level at all times. It is therefore important to find out if the marriage can also be a source of such problems for the individual.
As mentioned earlier, reports have shown in both longitudinal and cross sectional studies that directional relationships between relationship quality and stress tends to be strong. Recent studies show that individuals with more supportive partners are more likely to report lower levels of depression and individuals with a problematic spouse are likely to report higher levels of stress (Horwitz, Mclaughlin & White, 1998).
Relationship with family members also plays a role in how an individual handles stress before it becomes problematic for them. Good relations with in-laws, is thought to go a long way in helping people find satisfaction and joy in a marriage. As any Nigerian couple can testify, it bodes well for the family if all members are well placated and peace reigns within the family. However, reasons such as the inability to procreate, or financial strains could also be a major reason why psychological distress is on the rise today. In an American study on black Americans and marital satisfaction within the home, individuals who are married tend to report more happiness, life satisfaction, and fewer emotional problems than unmarried people. However, economic strains and unfair treatment are leading causes of problems in the marriage and often leads to couples experiencing significant amount of distress in the home which invariably affects marital satisfaction.
As of result of increasing reports of psychological problems reported by individuals who are married, this research has been undertaken to attempt to identify if marital satisfaction, or contentment in the marriage, alongside family relations are related to and can predict psychological distress amongst Nigerian married couples.
1.5 Background to the study
Psychological distress is a problem that can affect anyone regardless of age, social status and means of livelihood. However, marital issues also seem to be related to psychological distress. Renne (1970) pointed out that marital satisfaction was an essential and important component of emotional and psychological wellbeing, and has a positive association with general happiness and perception of overall individual health. In Nigeria, psychological problems abound in the society with experts looking for various reasons and solutions to the myriads of problems out there. Depression, aggression and violent behaviour are just some of the symptoms of psychological distress. But the question is, why focus on the marriage as a means of understanding distress?
Research has shown that within the marriage, there is a strong possibility that satisfaction within the marriage is a very important predictor of if psychological distress will be experienced by an individual or not. Horwitz and colleagues (1993) showed that negative marital quality is more strongly associated with depressive symptoms and also demonstrated that relationship quality and satisfaction may have a strong impact on wives compared to husbands. Other research has also shown that marital quality is a more significant influence on the psychological health of married women, while the status of the marriage is an important factor in predicting men’s mental well-being. Overall, these two factors affect the marriage scene in most families. Other factors that may affect the marital satisfaction of certain families also include use of drugs and alcohol. Horwitz (1996) found that depression and alcohol declined for individuals that were unmarried, but generally increased over time as these individuals got married; pointing to the fact these symptoms could be a means of trying to escape the problems attached to marriage, and by extension, psychological distress. There are also observed gender differences in the way couples react to stress within the marriage, as reports show that women tend to react negatively to stress within the marriage compared to men (Horwitz et al., 1998).
In addition to all these, it is also pertinent to understand that psychological distress is also a leading cause of divorces in most homes today (martins 2004). In most homes, when dissatisfaction arises in the marital process, it is usually a foreseen occurrence in families around the world today. When the husband or the wife is unable to bridge a perceived communication gap, or is limited in providing for essentials within the family, such as finances by the husband, emotional and physical support by the wife, then marital dissatisfaction can ensue resulting in one or both couples feeling sad, depressed, anxious and aggressive. All these can be described as psychological distress which can be quite visible in the marriage.
In addition, research has shown that the older a couple are, the less marital dissatisfaction they will likely experience (Bookwala & Jacobs, 2004; Henry, Berg, Smith, & Florsheim, 2007). This is probably because they tend to argue less often, and with the children preparing to leave the home, there may be little or no disputes about child raising strategies and issues, in addition to decreased financial burden which could be a major stressor in the family.
With all these in mind, an empirical investigation into how satisfaction within the marriage and family relations are related to psychological distress. Also, due to the dearth of research in this part of the world on the aforementioned topic, it has been deemed necessary to carry out this research for the furtherance of empirical knowledge and also to provide insight on contemporary issues on family life and how both spouses can contribute to psychological stability of the other and what ensues forth where this isn’t observed. As seen in the preceding paragraphs, it is a problem that deserves the scientific community’s attention as proper address of the problem could lead to prevention and cure of psychological distress among Nigerian couples.
1.6 Statement of the problem.
In typical Nigerian homes, it is rather difficult to pinpoint where the cause of psychological distress emanates from. Some may attribute it to spiritual problems, external factors such as financial strain, or strained relationship with other family members. Current research however, has pointed to marital satisfaction among the leading causes of psychological distress among married couples in many parts of the world (Horwitz et al 1998, Mamun, A., Clavarino, A., Najman, J., Williams, G., O’ Callaghan, J, Bor, W., 2009). In addition, younger couples are seen to experience lesser marital satisfaction compared to their older counterparts, with many indicators being pinpointed as leading causes.
Therefore the problem which will be given much consideration is to understand the intricate relationship between marital satisfaction, family relations and psychological distress, and to understand the influence of age of the couple or spouse on ability to reports either higher or lower levels of marital satisfaction. In the world today, women are generally assumed to be the “weaker vessel” and are more susceptible to stress, while the men are seen as strong and being able to withstand any discomfort that come their way and provide assurance and solace for the woman in time of need whenever, wherever and however that may be. This study will try to investigate and find out just how different men are from women in the way they handle psychological stress. Also the way married couples relate to one another is also seen as a predictor of distress, as little or no cordial relations between parents and their children, has been shown to increase the likelihood of psychological distress for one or both couples
As there are different forms and contexts in which psychological distress can be diagnosed, these will also be looked into to give better insight into which forms are peculiar to the marriage setting and which ones are not and also to determine if gender differences on susceptibility to psychological distress really exists as supported by literature.
1.7 Objectives of the study
The ‘general objective of this study is to investigate into marital satisfaction and family relation as likely predictors of psychological stress. With the aid of objectives measures which will be used to obtain responses from participants, it will be determined if there truly is any distinct relationship among the aforementioned variables and how the interrelation works. However, the study does not seek or wish to identify and label couples who are psychologically distressed or not, but wishes to investigate if a link actually exists between marital satisfaction and distress experienced by individuals. The study will focus on married couples within some selected areas of Lagos State with the aim of achieving the following
A brief summary of the salient and secondary objectives will be as follows;
1. To determine the relationship between marital satisfaction. Family relations and psychological distress
2. To ascertain if there are any gender differences on perceived psychological stress among married couples
3. To determine what form of psychological distress is peculiar to the marriage and how these can be solved using psychological techniques and methods.
1.8 Research questions
i. Are females more susceptible to psychological distress in marriages compared to males?.
ii. will Older couples experience higher levels of marital satisfaction compared to younger couples?
iii. Will there be a relationship between marital satisfaction, family relations and psychological distress?
iv. Will males generally report higher levels of marital satisfaction compared to females in marriages?
These questions will guide the formulation of the research hypotheses upon which analysis will be conducted.
1.5 Research hypothesis
I. Females would be more susceptible to psychological distress in marriages compared to males.
II. Older couples will experience higher levels of marital satisfaction compared to younger couples.
III. There will be a negative relationship between marital satisfaction, family relations and psychological distress
IV. Males will generally report higher levels of marital satisfaction compared to females in marriages.
1.8 Scope of the study
As known in the realm of social sciences, humans tend to be unpredictable in certain areas or aspects of their lives, and it is not possible to engage in experimental procedures where participants will be exposed to harmful stressors which may be detrimental to their health as this is unethical (APA, 2012). Therefore it is the wish of the researcher to see if any relationship can be observed within the variables of study and see how they affect one another,
For this reasons, the scope of this study will include;
i. Establishing a relationship between marital satisfaction and psychological distress among married couples within Lagos metropolis and its environs as well
ii. To see if males and females differ in the susceptibility to psychological distress
iii. Determine if age of married couples also play a key role in the onset of psychological distress
iv. Determine if family relations and psychological distress are correlated to one another.
1.9 Significance of the study
This study will contribute significantly in the following ways
i. To the married individual; a better understanding of marriage and its dynamics and how they can adversely affect an individual if ignored. A better understanding of the marriage partner and how to have cordial relations with such ones is also a significant contribution of the study
ii. To the family; members of the family will be able to appreciate family dynamics better and to have a clearer view of various psychological problems that could arise as a result of negative relations with family members. Findings will be beneficial to aid everyone realize just how the family relationship can help to create a positive atmosphere outside the home.
iii. To the society; ignorance of psychological issues is a bane in our society that has done a lot of damage as a result of misguided information, and groundless suspicion. With the aid of this study, it is hoped that members of the society will understand that there are different reasons for psychological distress, with family relations and marital satisfaction probably contributing more than originally thought
1.8 Operational definitions of variables
Marital satisfaction is a mental state that reflects the perceived benefits and costs of marriage to a particular person (Bradley, 2000) . As a direct result, the more costs a marriage partner inflicts on a person, the less satisfied one generally is with the marriage and with the marriage partner. Similarly, the greater the perceived benefits are, the more satisfied one is with the marriage and with the marriage partner.
Psychological distress is a general term that is used to describe unpleasant feelings and emotions that impact an individual’s level of functioning. In other words, it is psychological discomfort that interferes with an individual’s activities of daily living. This can result in negative views of the environment, others, and the self. Manifestations of psychological distress include sadness, anxiety, distraction, and some symptoms of mental illness.
It can also be simply defined as a state of emotional suffering characterized by symptoms of depression (Mirowsky & Ross 2002). As a result, no two people can experience one event exactly the same way. This is because psychological distress is a subjective experience, and is dependent upon the situation and how one perceives it. Causes of psychological distress include traumatic experiences such as the death of loved ones, job constraints and marital dissatisfaction (Bookwala & Jacobs, 2004).
Major life transitions such as moving to a new area or graduating from the university can be sources of psychological stress if one is unable to cope with the demands such transitions place on you or inability to adjust to the situation.
As used in this context, family relations can be used to describe the way each member of the family relates to the other in the perspective of one member of the family. The family is seen as the primary agent of socialization and also the “home” from which charity begins. Therefore it Is increasingly important to understand how each member of the family relates with the other and how this can have an impact of the married couple. A research on parental strain and psychological distress showed that the way children and parents relate with one another plays a very big role in how stress is managed (Borowski 2003.). when the mother of father relates well with the kids, it helps to alleviate the day to day stress encountered by them, but if otherwise is the case, where one has truant and unruly children, and the other spouse is not helping matters, psychological stress may occur and this will have a negative impact upon the family regardless of which person in the marriage has the problem.