Marital Instability Over the Life Course/Work and Family Life Study Series

Investigator(s): Booth, Alan, Johnson, David R., White, Lynn K., and Edwards, John N.

The Marital Instability Over the Life Course/Work and Family Life Study series is a nationwide longitudinal study begun in 1980 with funding from the Social Security Administration's Office of Research and Statistics and the National Institute on Aging. The intent of the data collection was to identify the causes of marital instability throughout the life course. Six waves of data were collected between 1980 and 2000 from married individuals between the ages of 18 and 55. In 1980 Wave I data focused primarily on female labor force participation in an effort to determine whether there was a relationship between wives' working outside of the home and marital dissolution or the likelihood of divorce. Wave II (1983) and Wave III (1988) employed a wider life-course perspective and studied the effects of factors such as economic resources, wives 'employment, presence of children, marital satisfaction, life goals, health, and changes in any of these factors on actions intended to dissolve a marriage - including divorce and permanent separation and on marital relationships in general. Wave IV (1992, 1994) continued as the previous waves and provided additional data from adult offspring who were living in the household in 1980 and had reached age 19 by 1992. These additional respondents provided parallel measures with their parents regarding the quality of parent-child relationships, attitudes, and support along with exploring the impact of childhood experiences on the transition to adult life. Wave V (1997) examined the relationship between marital quality and stability and how it relates to changes in marital quality later in life. Additionally, Wave V includes a second adult offspring sample, along with a second interview of the adult offspring sample from Wave IV. Wave VI data were collected in 2000 and included the adult panel, a panel obtained from the offspring who participated in 1992 or 1997, a replication of the original cross-section study completed in 1980, and a comparison sample made up of persons who were married in 1980 and were between 39 and 75 years old. The investigators examined whether there were changes in marital quality between 1980 and 2000, identified factors that might have accounted for these changes, and sought to determine their impact on the health and longevity of older persons. In addition to Wave VI of the Marital Instability Over the Life Course Study (MIOLC), the Work and Family Life Study (WFLS) was conducted in 2000 and its primary aim is to assess changes in marital quality between 1980 and 2000. The WFLS also considers the effects of family-of-origin characteristics and marital history on the physical and psychological health of respondents. Included in the WFLS is a new cross-section sample using the same sampling procedures and interview questions that were used in the 1980 wave of the MIOLC. The Comparison Sample of the WFLS provides data to evaluate sample attrition, factors which lead to attrition, and attrition bias. (It should be noted that this comparison file is a special purpose sample and does not generalize to a normally defined population of ever married persons)