Jieni Zhou
Dr. Marc Schulz
Psychology Department

Marital Satisfaction Trajectories over Life Course

Substantial research indicates that married people stay healthier and live longer. However, about 40% to 50% of marriages in the U.S end in divorce and many people in marriage report marital dissatisfaction. The quality of close relationships is important not only to couples but also to children’s mental and physical health. Thus, identifying factors that impact the quality of close relationships deserves attention with the ultimate purpose of educating and preparing families for inevitable strengths in their relationships.

My summer research project aims to construct trajectories of marital satisfaction over the life course by mining a prospective longitudinal dataset collected across a 75-year period on the lives and marriages of 743 men. The original participants, first contacted in the 1930s, were 267 sophomores at Harvard University and 476 adolescents from Boston's poorest neighborhoods between 1939-1944. A self-reported, multi-item questionnaire assessing marital quality along with social history information was collected at 7 points: 1954, 1967, 1972, 1983, 1989,1995 and 1999. We will utilize a newly digitized warehouse of information for each participant and combine major relationship events such as death of parents, birth of children and divorce with quantitative information on marital satisfaction collected across these 7 periods. By contextualizing marital functioning prospectively across 5 decades, we will be able to create a more comprehensive picture of factors that contribute to relationship quality.  Comparison within and between the two groups of men with distinct socioeconomic backgrounds will provide additional information. The results will help inform future interventions linked to key points in the marital life cycle to avoid and alleviate relationship distress and dysfunction.


Demir, M. (2007). Sweetheart, you really make me happy: Romantic relationship quality and personality as predictors of happiness among emerging adults. Journal of Happiness Studies J Happiness Stud, 9(2), 257-277. doi:10.1007/s10902-007-9051-8

Kaplan, R. M. (2006). Marital status and longevity in the United States population. Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, 60(9), 760-765. doi:10.1136/jech.2005.037606