Early Years of Marriage (EYM) Project, Years 1-4, 1986-1989 (ICPSR 4557)

Version Date: Oct 3, 2007 View help for published

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Joseph Veroff, University of Michigan; Elizabeth Douvan, University of Michigan; Shirley Hatchett, University of Michigan; Terri Orbuch, University of Michigan


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EYM Project, First Years of Marriage (FYM) Project

The purpose of the Early Years of Marriage (EYM) Project was to determine ways in which the early development of marriage for Black couples and White couples affect the mental and physical health of spouses, marital stability, long-term marital outcomes, patterns of family life and, for those who divorce, individual adjustment to family disruption. The EYM Project began in 1986 with 373 newlywed couples--174 White couples and 199 Black couples. The marriages were all intra-racial and it was the first marriage for both spouses.

Year 1 interviews, which queried the couples on various aspects of married life, began after four to nine months into the marriage. Very few respondents who originally participated in Year 1 of the study refused to participate in subsequent phases of the study. In 1986 (Year 1) and 1988 (Year 3) spouses were interviewed in their homes separately and together, with the interviews conducted by interviewers of the same race. In 1987 (Year 2) and 1989 (Year 4) shorter individual telephone interviews were conducted.

In all four years, respondents were queried on a wide variety of topics such as feelings and perceptions of their own family, spouse, in-laws, and their spouse's friends, family planning, how many children they should have, how the children should be reared, childcare, and household roles and responsibilities. A series of questions was asked about reasons for getting married, how satisfying married life was, what, if any, were the special pleasures and good feelings that came from being married, how often arguments and disagreements occurred, main reasons for arguments, and how they were eventually resolved. A series of questions were also asked regarding the mental and physical health of the spouse, job satisfaction, job security, and how the job affected the family. In Year 2 and Year 4 interviews (Parts 2-4), a series of questions regarding separation and divorce were also asked.

Demographic variables include race, gender, age, level of education, occupation, income, and religious preference.

Veroff, Joseph, Douvan, Elizabeth, Hatchett, Shirley, and Orbuch, Terri. Early Years of Marriage (EYM) Project, Years 1-4, 1986-1989. Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2007-10-03. https://doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR04557.v1

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United States Department of Health and Human Services. National Institutes of Health. National Institute of Mental Health (MH 41253)
Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research

1986, 1987, 1988, 1989
1986-09 (Year 1), 1987-08 (Year 2), 1988-09 (Year 3), 1989-09 (Year 4)
  1. This data collection only contains Year 1 through Year 4 of the Early Years of Marriage Project.

  2. Variables from all four parts can be linked via the MERGEID variable.


Respondents were 199 White couples and 174 Black couples who applied for marriage licenses in Wayne County, Michigan, during April-June, 1986. To be eligible for the study, both members of the couple had to agree to participate, be of the same race, and in their first marriage. The wife had to be younger than 35 years of age, and the couple married and residing in Wayne County in 1986. All eligible Black couples and a random sample of the eligible White couples were contacted and asked to take part in the study.

The comparison of this sample with the year-appropriate United States Census data (first-married couples by race on a host of demographic variables) makes it representative to those first-married couples in 1986.

Married couples aged 25-37, of the same race/ethnicity, who applied for a marriage license in Wayne County, Michigan during April-June, 1986, and were married and residing in Wayne County, Michigan in 1986.


In 1986, response rates were 66 percent (65 percent for Black couples and 66 percent for White couples).



2018-02-15 The citation of this study may have changed due to the new version control system that has been implemented. The previous citation was:
  • Veroff, Joseph, Elizabeth Douvan, Shirley Hatchett, and Terri Orbuch. Early Years of Marriage (EYM) Project, Years 1-4, 1986-1989. ICPSR04557-v1. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2007-10-03. http://doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR04557.v1