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OnePlusOne Research and Policy Digest – June 2015

By OnePlusOne, 15 June 2015 Behaviour change, Children, Civil partnerships, Cohabitation, Conflict, Divorce, Early intervention, Employment, Fathers, Health, Legal, Marriage, New baby, New parents, Parenting, Sex, Stepfamilies, Strengthening relationships, Transitions

Journal Articles

Can Personality Explain the Educational Gradient in Divorce? Evidence From a Nationally Representative Panel Survey
Diederik Boertien, Christian von Scheve and Mona Park

The social demographic literature on divorce suggests that the lower educated are more likely to have personality traits that reduce relationship stability. However, few empirical verifications of this proposition exist. To fill this void, we look at the distribution of personality traits across educational groups of married individuals in Britain. Using data from the British Household Panel Survey (N = 2,665), we first estimated the effects of the “Big Five” personality traits agreeableness, conscientiousness, extraversion, neuroticism, and openness to experience on divorce and subsequently examine their distribution across educational groups. We find that in particular women’s personality traits differ by education. We also observe that personality traits affecting divorce risk are distributed unevenly over educational groups, but they do not favor the higher educated in general. In sum, the data do not support the hypothesis that the lower educated in Britain have personality traits that reduce relationship stability.

A dyadic approach to health, cognition, and quality of life in aging adults.
Bourassa, Kyle J.; Memel, Molly; Woolverton, Cindy and Sbarra, David A.

Married couples evidence interdependence in their psychological and physical wellbeing across the life span. This is particularly true in aging populations that experience declines in physical health and cognitive ability. This study investigated the effects of partners’ physical health and cognition on quality of life (QoL) in a series of bivariate latent curve growth models. The sample included aging married couples (N = 8,187) who participated in the Survey of Health, Ageing, and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) study and provided data across 6 years. Results indicated that husbands’ and wives’ baseline levels and rates of change in QoL covaried significantly over time. In addition, husbands’ and wives’ physical health and cognition predicted their partners’ baseline level of QoL above and beyond their own health and cognition, and these effects were of equivalent size for both men and women. The findings suggest that as couples age, husbands’ and wives’ QoL, cognition, and health are predictive of their partners’ QoL.


Research: an empirical exploration of parental responsibility for step-parents
Penelope Russell

Parental responsibility is a central concept in the legal framework of child and parent relations in England and Wales, yet its meaning and utility is contested. This article seeks to provide a fresh perspective in order to enhance understanding of the concept, by reference to the views of step-parents obtained in interview. Step-parents’ experiences of parenting and views of their parenting role can yield particularly interesting insights into parental responsibility as they may carry out day-to-day parenting yet lack a biological link. Although the acquisition of parental responsibility would be of assistance to a proportion of step-parents, data released by the Ministry of Justice indicates that take-up by step-parents of parental responsibility has been very low. Drawing upon interview data, this article argues that step-parents may identify parental responsibility with being a parent, not with the activity of parenting. For some step-parents, this is a deterrent to its acquisition. The article concludes by recommending a change of name from ‘parental responsibility’ to ‘child responsibility’ to sever the link with parenthood.

The Suffocation Model: Why Marriage in America Is Becoming an All-or-Nothing Institution
Eli J. Finkel, Elaine O. Cheung, Lydia F. Emery, Kathleen L. Carswell and Grace M. Larson

Throughout American history, the fundamental purpose of marriage has shifted from (a) helping spouses meet their basic economic and political needs to (b) helping them meet their intimacy and passion needs to (c) helping them meet their autonomy and personal-growth needs. According to the suffocation model of marriage in America, these changes have had two major consequences for marital quality, one negative and one positive. The negative consequence is that, as Americans have increasingly looked to their marriage to help them meet idiosyncratic, self-expressive needs, the proportion of marriages that fall short of their expectations has grown, which has increased rates of marital dissatisfaction. The positive consequence is that those marriages that succeed in meeting these needs are particularly fulfilling, more so than the best marriages in earlier eras. In tandem, these two consequences have pushed marriage toward an all-or-nothing state.

“Let’s talk about sex”: Discussions in seniors’ online communities
Liza Berdychevsky and Galit Nimrod

Seniors’ online communities offer them a safe sphere for discussing sex-related concerns. This netnographic study explored the characteristics of sex-related discussions in such communities and followed online sex-related discussions that took place in 14 leading English language-based communities during one full year (2,534 posts). Analysis revealed that the discussions were simultaneously a source of valuable information and entertainment, and that they had an effect on members’ attitudes and offline sexual behavior. Battles between the discussions’ protagonists and antagonists provided additional “spice” to the rather amusing yet educational and beneficial discussions. Overall, results indicated that in a reality of limited alternatives for sex-related communication, seniors have found a channel to satisfy their needs for sex-related information and support.

(Article here

Enhancing Father Engagement and Inter-parental Teamwork in an Evidence-Based Parenting Intervention: A Randomized-Controlled Trial of Outcomes and Processes
Tenille J. Franka, Louise J. Keowna and Matthew R. Sandersa

This study examined the outcomes and process in a positive parenting program adapted to enhance father engagement and teamwork. A randomized control trial of the Group Triple P Program with additional father-relevant content was conducted with 42 families of children with conduct problems aged between three to eight years. Families were allocated to either the intervention or waitlist condition. Assessments of child behavior, self and partner reported parenting, and the inter-parental relationship were conducted at T1 (pre), T2 (post) and T3 (6-month follow-up). Observations were used to examine fathers’ and mothers’ unique and shared contributions to group process during participation in parenting group sessions.

Following program completion (T2) intervention group fathers and mothers reported significantly fewer child behavior problems, dysfunctional parenting practices, and inter-parental conflict about child rearing than waitlist parents. Intervention group mothers also reported increased parenting confidence and rated their partners as showing significantly fewer dysfunctional parenting practices. Intervention effects were maintained at 6 -month follow-up. Observational data showed that fathers and mothers made similar contributions during the group sessions. The most frequent types of contributions were asking questions and sharing information with other parents about implementing parenting strategies. The key differences between parents were fathers more frequent use of humor and mothers more often sharing of personal stories and reporting co-parenting cooperation. The level of session attendance and program satisfaction were high for both fathers and mothers. Findings highlight the potential benefits of efforts to engage both fathers and mothers for program adherence, satisfaction and effectiveness.

Nonmarital Relationships and Changing Perceptions of Marriage Among African American Young Adults
Ashley B. Barr1, Ronald L. Simons, and Leslie Gordon Simons;jsessionid=07A522D40D0820E2CF65F209FC881FA6.f03t04

Cohabitation has become increasingly widespread over the past decade. Such trends have given rise to debates about the relation between cohabitation and marriage in terms of what cohabitation means for individual relationship trajectories and for the institution of marriage more generally. Using recent data from a sample of almost 800 African Americans and fixed effects modeling procedures, in the present study the authors shed some light on these debates by exploring the extent to which cohabitation, relative to both singlehood and dating, was associated with within-individual changes in African Americans’ marital beliefs during the transition to adulthood. The findings suggest that cohabitation is associated with changes in marital beliefs, generally in ways that repositioned partners toward marriage, not away from it. This was especially the case for women. These findings suggest that, for young African American women, cohabitation holds a distinct place relative to dating and, in principle if not practice, relative to marriage.

Who Can Give Me Satisfaction? Partner Matching in Fear of Intimacy and Relationship Satisfaction
Sobral, Maria Pedro, Teixeira, Cátia P. and Costa, Maria Emília

This study aimed to better understand couples’ satisfaction. We hypothesized that similar levels on the two dimensions of fear of intimacy (fear of losing the self [FLS] and fear of losing the other [FLO]) would buffer the negative association between fear of intimacy and relationship satisfaction. Findings revealed a positive influence in relationship satisfaction from partner similarity in FLS. No effects were found from partner similarity in FLO. Relationship satisfaction decreased when one partner’s higher fear of losing the self was combined with lower fear of losing the other from the other partner. Repercussions for couple therapy are discussed.

Marriage Work in Older Couples: Disclosure of Marital Problems to Spouses and Friends Over Time.
Jensen, Jakob F.; Rauer, Amy J.

This study examined the frequency and impact of “marriage work” (MW), or the act of discussing marital problems with spouses and friends, among a sample of older married couples (N = 64). Using actor–partner interdependence models, we examined how turning to one’s spouse and one’s friend was linked to changes in both spouses’ marital satisfaction and conflict 1 year later. We also investigated whether satisfaction and conflict predicted change in MW for older spouses. Both wives and husbands engaged in more MW with spouses than with friends, and only husbands’ MW with spouses decreased over time. Wives’ MW with spouses was associated with decreased marital satisfaction for husbands, whereas husbands’ MW with spouses was linked with increased satisfaction for husbands. Furthermore, wives’ MW with spouses predicted increases in wives’ marital conflict over time. When examining effects in the opposite direction, wives’ marital satisfaction predicted decreases in wives’ MW with spouse. Husbands’ satisfaction was linked with increases in wives’ MW with spouses, increases in wives’ MW with friends, and decreases in husbands’ MW with friends. Finally, husbands’ conflict predicted increases in husbands’ MW with friends. Findings suggest that openly engaging in discussions of marital problems may not be as uniformly helpful for aging couples as it is for their younger counterparts. Given that many older adults tend to actively avoid conflictual interactions in an attempt to maximize emotional rewards, researchers and clinicians should note that traditional approaches to working through romantic conflict may not be ideal for aging couples. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2015 APA, all rights reserved)


Research/ Statistics

Same – and different-sex couple negotiating at home
Families at work institute

The Modern Families study, designed by FWI with the generous sponsorship and insights of PwC, is an examination of how dual-earner, same-sex and different-sex couples divide family responsibilities, how they came to those arrangements and how that affects their satisfaction with the way they share their lives. It tackles questions like: Are different-sex couples still dividing responsibilities along traditional gender role lines? Are same-sex couples recreating hetero-sexual gender roles by dividing responsibilities on the basis of income and work hours? Is there a difference between same-sex and different-sex couples in how satisfied they are with their divisions of responsibilities?

How do county courts share the care of children between parents?
University of Reading and University of Warwick

The  research  is  based  on document  analysis  of a  retrospective  sample  of 197 case  files from  the County  Courts. The  purpose  of  the  project  was  to  examine  the different  types  of child  care arrangements reached within court proceedings and confirmed by court order in five selected County Courts in England and Wales within a six month period in 2011. The  research  examines the  types  of  applications  that  came  to  court, the  role  of  the  court  in adjudicating  such  disputes  and  the  different  types  of  timeshare  arrangements  reached  by parents during the court process.

Fewer Young People Say I Do — to Any Relationship
Gallup Poll

Along with the decline in marriages among 18- to 29-year-olds in the U.S. in recent years, Gallup trends on Americans’ living arrangements reveal that the percentage of young adults “living together” has hardly budged. This means that not only are fewer young adults married, but also that fewer are in committed relationships. As a result, the percentage of young adults who report being single and not living with someone has risen dramatically in the past decade, from 52% in 2004 to 64% in 2014.


Policy/ Practice

Cutting Child Benefit but increasing free childcare – where is the poverty test?

An opinion piece looking at what the changes to child benefit and free childcare may mean for those in poverty.


Ordering mothers to hand over the care of young children to fathers – when does this happen and why?

Family Law News and Comment on the decision of a Birmingham Couet to order a mother to hand over her child to his father.



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