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Understanding Marriages in Context

Lisa B. Story


Thomas N. Bradbury

UCLA Sloan Center on Everyday Lives of Families
Working Paper No. 1


This paper explores the role of environmental and situational contexts in marital functioning. Three common approaches to this topic are reviewed, reflecting an emphasis on life events, chronic stress, and daily events. Within each approach we discuss empirical findings involving spousesí emotional distress, their interpersonal behavior, and the quality and outcome of their marriage. The advantages and disadvantages of each approach to studying marital contexts are outlined, as are their common and unique contributions. Particular emphasis is placed on the implications that differing contexts have for interventions designed to improve relationships. We conclude by observing that research devoted to understanding marriages in context is at a crossroads, poised between a set of provocative questions, preliminary findings, and intervention possibilities, on one hand, and important theoretical and empirical challenges on the other.

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