Marital Instability over the Life Course: A Five-Wave Panel Study, Wave I (1980)

Data Archive > U.S. Surveys > General Population > National > Other > Summary


This study describes data of individuals 55 years of age and under who were married in 1980. The goal of the study was to determine the impact of various factors that could affect the likelihood of divorce. Five waves were completed (1980, 1983, 1988, 1992-1994, and 1997). This particular dataset contains the 1980 wave. The 1980 survey focused on how wives’ participation in the workforce affected marital quality and stability. Religion variables in this wave include the religious affiliations of the respondent and spouse (if applicable), frequency of church attendance, and the degree to which religion influences the life of the respondent.

Data File
Cases: 2,033
Variables: 544
Weight Variable: CASWGT, WATE
Data Collection
Date Collected: 1980
Funded By
National Institute on Aging
Collection Procedures
Participants were first interviewed by telephone in the fall of 1980. Spouses were not interviewed. Random digit dialing was used to select the sample.
Sampling Procedures
The population sampled was all husbands and wives in households in the contiguous United States in which both spouses were present and under the age of 55 and who had access to a telephone. A clustering technique was used to reduce selection costs. It was estimated that the respondents were sufficiently dispersed geographically so as not to create a design effect requiring attention in the analysis of the data. An additional random procedure was used to select a couple if more than one lived in the household and to select the husband or wife.

Among eligible households the response rate was 65 percent. Refusal rates were somewhat higher in metropolitan areas. To correct for this, the data contains a weight for metropolitan residence by region.
Principal Investigators
Alan Booth
Related Publications
Booth, Alan and David R. Johnson. 1985. "Tracking respondents in a telephone interview panel selected by random digit dialing." Sociological Methods and Research. 14:53-64.
Notes
Description of the variable JBCOM80 (Working Wife’s Job Commitment):
A summated scale using four items:
Wife works because she wants a career (WWKCAB80)
Wife works for a feeling of accomplishment (WWKACP80)
Wife works because wants financial independence (WWKMNY80)
Wife’s work preference: full-time, part-time, none (WIFEWK80)
Chronbach’s alpha is .63. Because there were 30-50 don’t knows, especially for WIFEWK80, all DK responses were recoded to the mid-points on the scale. The scale ranges from 4 to 15. The scale is valid only for working wives.

Description of the variable WORKPO80 (Wife’s Work Potential):
WWKB480 Wife paid employee before marriage (Recoded Yes=1 Else=0)
WWKAFT80 Wife worked after marriage (Recoded Yes=1 Else=0)
WWKTIM80 Proportion married life wife worked (Recoded Always, Most of time=1 Else=0)
WFTMK80 Last year wife worked (Recoded 78, 79, 80=2 76, 77=1, Else=0)
WFEXP80 Wife has training or job experience (Recoded Yes=1 Else=0)
Chronbach’s alpha=.68. To take into consideration the possibility that poor health might reduce work potential, these six variables were added then multiplied by .5 if the wife had a health problem. A health problem was defined if the wife’s health was fair or poor or if she had a physical limitation. If she was pregnant, it was assumed she was healthy. Of the 836 non-working women for whom this scale is defined, 143 had a health problem. The scale ranges from 0 to 7.

Description of the variables LOGRMI80 and MI80 (Marital Instability 1980):
These indices of marital instability are based on items asked of people who are married. The initial development of the scale is described in detail in the following publications:

Booth, Alan, David Johnson, and John N. Edwards. 1983. "Measuring martial instability." Journal of Marriage and the Family. 45: 387-393.

Edwards, John N., David R. Johnson, and Alan Booth. "Coming apart: A prognostic instrument of marital breakup." Family Relations. 36: 165-170.

Johnson, David R., Lynn K. White, John N. Edwards, and Alan Booth. "Dimensions of martial quality: Toward methodological and conceptual refinement. Journal of Family Issues. 7: 31-49.

Higher scores indicate greater martial instability. The variable was logged to bring the distribution quality more into line with the assumptions needed for multiple regression (LOGRMI80).

Description of the variable MARHP180 (Marital Happiness 1980):
A summated scale using eleven items reflecting amount of happiness with: 1) extent of understanding received from spouse (SATISA80); 2) amount of love received (SATISB80); 3) extend of agreement about things (SATISC80); 4) sexual relationship (SATISD80); 5) spouse as someone who takes care of things around the house (SATISG80); 6) spouse as someone to do things with (SATISH80); 7) spouse’s faithfulness (SATISI80); 8) evaluation of marriage as very happy, pretty happy, or not too happy (MARRYX80); 9) compared to other marriages, respondent’s is better, same, or not as good (MARRYY80); 10) comparing marriage to 3 years ago, it is getting better, staying the same, or getting worse (STNGA80); and 11) strength of feelings of love respondent has for spouse (STRNGC80).

Scale has possible scores from 11 to 24. Variables were recoded where necessary so higher scores mean greater happiness.

Description of the variable MARPRB80 (Marital Problems 1980):
A summated scale using 13 items indicating presence of marital problems because either or both spouses: 1) gets angry easily (MARRYH80) ; 2) gets easily hurt (MARRYI80); 3) is jealous (MARRYJ80); 4) is domineering (MARRYK80); 5) is critical (MARRYL80); 6) is moody (MARRYM80); 7) won’t talk to the other (MARRYN80); 8) has sexual relationship with others (MARRYO80); 9) has irritating habit (MARRYP80); 10) is not home enough (MARRYQ80); 11) spends money foolishly (MARRYR80); 12) drinks or uses drugs (MARRYS80); and 13) has been in trouble with the law (MARRYT80).

Higher scores indicates greater marital problems.

Description of the variable NTRACT80 (Spousal Interaction Scale):
A summated scale using five items: 1) eat main meal together (VALUEF80); 2) go shopping together (VALUEG80); 3) visit friends together (VALUEH80); 4) work around home together (VALUEI80); and 5) go out together (VALUEJ80).

Higher scores indicate greater interaction.

Description of the variable DSGRM80 (Spousal Disagreement Scale):
A summated scale using the following items: 1) disagreements over share of housework done by respondent (CHORED80); 2) frequency of disagreements with spouse (DISAGA80); 3) number of serious quarrels with spouse within the last two months (DISAGD80); and 4) arguments involving physical abuse (DISAGE80).

Scale ranges from 0 to 12. Higher scores indicate greater disagreement.

Description for the variable FAMINC80 (Total family income):
A combination of three items was used to construct this variable: 1) total family income over or under $20,000 (INCA80); 2) income category over $20,000 (INCB80); and 3) income category under $20,000 (INCC80). The few individuals who said their income was less than $20,000, but who wouldn’t specify further, were assigned $12,500; the individuals indicating incomes of $20,000 or above who did not specify further were assigned $27,500. The midpoint of each interval listed in the questions was used to assign dollar value. For the last interval, $65,000 was used.

Description of the variable WFINC80 (Value of Wife’s Income):
Wife’s percentage of family income (WFCNTR80) multiplied by family income (FAMINC80).
Description of the variable SXROL80 (Sex roles scale):
A summated scale using seven items: 1) wife’s most important task: caring for children; 2) husband should earn higher pay than wife; 3) husband shouldn’t worry if wife gone overnight in connection with job; 4) if wife works full-time, husband should help with homework; 5) if jobs scarce, wife shouldn’t work; 6) working mothers can have just as good of a relationship with kids; and 7) even if wife works, husband should be main breadwinner.

Higher scores indicate more traditional values.

The following are the value labels for the variable MRELNA80:
1 Neglects house/home
2 Husband and/or children neglected
3 Husband and wife grow apart-conflicting schedules-problems
4 Contributes to family understanding and growth-appreciation
5 Wife would resent it-have bad attitude if she had to work 8-5 Marriage would suffer (she doesn’t want to work)
6 If woman has young, pre-school children/family she should stay home with them
7 Depends entirely on each individual couple and circumstances
8 Husband becomes jealous and threatened-insecure
9 Couple need to consider each other-understand and care for
10 Man feels interview should ask about whether wife helps him with chores, i.e. mowing, snow shoveling
11 Wife working has little or no effect on marriage-other factors more important
12 Wife gets too independent and career minded-self-centered-threatens marriage
13 Children in families where mom works are more independent-well adjusted
14 Wife needs to be more organized at home when she works (organization is critical)
15 Wife with children can work part-time with few problems
16 Increased respect for wife who works and contributes to family (both should work)
17 Family, especially husband, has to share chores and responsibilities
18 Wife gets too involved with social aspects outside family-especially men-affairs
19 Puts stress on marriage/family-causes problems
20 People shouldn't care/they get too involved with material things
21 Children more apt to go astray and be insecure
22 Wife is less dependent on husband/likes independence
23 If wife doesn’t work, she could become an alcoholic-lost self-esteem
24 Competition over who’s in charge of the money-his/her money-who’s paying the bills
25 Woman feels better about herself-happy
26 Women's lib is destructive to the home
27 Wife becomes resentful because she has job and housework (husband has job only)
28 A strong marriage can stand wife working
29 Place/calling for woman is in home/wife and mother is demanding role
30 The reason women work is to pay bills
31 Loss of communication (need to keep open)
32 Good for women to work if they want to/no problems
33 Woman has to set goals/priorities for her self/can handle both home and job
34 Wife is bored/unhappy staying home
35 People you work with pressure you into their life styles
36 Working mothers (may) cause divorce/break up
37 Woman more in touch with world-better outlook
38 More money-standard of living up
39 Makes for conflict of interests
40 Just don’t think women should work
41 A woman who works carries a double load
42 Put physical and mental stress on woman
43 Couple needs to work everything out beforehand – housework finances - all the ramifications
44 One parent must be home to nurture the children
45 Children are ones most affected when wife works
46 Okay if husband is agreeable (mutual agreement); if not, problems
47 Man looks upon wife's education as investment – wants a return
48 Girls nowadays should be trained for some work
49 Couple aren't going to have children so wife has plenty of free time even though she works
50 Family that has faith in God can be happy
51 There is great lack of adequate child care (hard to find someone)
52 Now there is more flexibility for women to do what they want
53 Its okay/good for wife to work if just husband and wife at home
54 A wife who is really happy doesn't go to work
55 Women should do volunteer work, especially in schools
56 Couple/family get less time together if wife works
57 Couple shouldn't bring home problems
58 Women who work seem to be divorced or single
59 Women shouldn't take a man's job
60 Costs too much for clothes, car, child care, if wife works
61 Doesn't want wife gone overnight
62 Woman has hard time adjusting to being a housewife after working in her profession - misses career
63 The Lord/Bible wants women to be helpers/mothers
64 Causes changes in roles and priorities of wife and husband
65 It is not the quantity of time the mother spends with kids, its the quality
66 Problems arise cause people are inflexible
67 Wife only working to help husband
68 Respondent had good experience growing up with both parents working
69 Wife works for security in case of husband's death
70 Wife who works has no time for activities outside home (school volunteer)
71 Meeting other men/women
72 Depends on kind of job/hours, i.e. stripper or nurse
73 Makes for misunderstanding/poor communications
74 Okay as long as both work same hours
75 Gives woman a chance to get out of a bad marriage
76 Enhances marriage - better communication - sharing -closeness
77 Children want their mother home - doing more for them
78 Wife might not be home when needed (late dinner)
79 Hard to plan week end trips and vacations
80 Two people are working for common goal
81 Okay to work but put family first before job
82 Woman shouldn't work unless absolutely necessary
83 Woman can work if kids are small; not when
84 "Bad role model" for boys if woman stays home - they think women shouldn't work
85 Its hard to start work after you've been home entire married life
86 Spouse start spend money unwisely
87 More responsibility placed on the man
88 Okay if mom is home when kids are home
89 U.S. economy causes most family/marital problems
90 Women are discriminated against in business world
91 Man resents/refuses to do domestic chores
92 If woman works - go right after baby is born rather than 3 years (it feels rejection)
93 Problems because "head of household" idea is disappearing
94 Need more hours in the day/hectic
95 Family was helped by Family Service Counseling
96 We eat out more often
97 Big difference between "have to" - "want to" work
98 Don't worry about money problems
99 Working helps wife keep her sanity
100 More divorces when wife makes more money
101 Husband/wife works different shifts - stressful
102 Goals should be defined adequately/goals/be aware of roles
103 If wife doesn't like job, can cause problems
104 I do my duty, what's expected for my family
105 Woman who works misses out on a lot of family things
106 If people want to stay married don't live in Dallas, Texas
107 This is my own opinion
108 Misunderstandings of husbands ego
109 Good and bad effects (wouldn't clarify)
110 Its a way of life for young couples
111 Wife felt guilty about leaving baby to go to work; husband felt she thought more of baby than him
112 Wife worked some/stayed home some - no problem – worked out okay
113 It all depends on whether wife is happy with job
114 Each should maintain individuality and be able to give to the other
115 Bad enough one person coming home irritable, not two people
116 Man should be boss/breadwinner
117 Couple relies too much on wife's income
118 Lack of cooperation from family
119 If its week ends and nights, its difficult for family
120 Couples would have to "make time for each other"
121 Women have more to contribute than just staying home
122 Husband makes more money for household
123 Wife expects too much from man/gets bossy
124 Exposure to people and things good
125 Children tend not to be as close to the parents/mother when she works
126 I think it enlightens and broadens marriage and the whole family
127 Every thing is great if wife keeps her cool
128 I was more conscientious of children; it could have been guilt motivation
129 I feel environment is important for the security of the children; they can sense if she is working for her pleasure
130 My working allows him to be lazier
131 He has guilt feelings about income difficulties
132 Gives one less private, personal time
133 Father gains more understanding for children by watching children when wife works
134 If both parents work, kids must have good child care
135 Problems when man is student and wife working
136 Both salaries should go in common pool
137 Not fair for wife of high income husband to work
138 Husband don't like her to work, but they need the money
139 Husband says when women get money, they think different
140 In many cases they want things to be the same
997 Inapplicable
998 Don't know
999 Refused

The following are the value labels for the variable MRELNB80
1 Neglects house/home
2 Husband and/or children neglected
3 Husband and wife grow apart-conflicting schedules-problems
4 Contributes to family understanding and growth-appreciation
5 Wife would resent it-have bad attitude if she had to work 8-5 Marriage would suffer (she doesn’t want to work)
6 If woman has young, pre-school children/family she should stay home with them
7 Depends entirely on each individual couple and circumstances
8 Husband becomes jealous and threatened-insecure
9 Couple need to consider each other-understand and care for
10 Man feels interview should ask about whether wife helps him with chores, i.e. mowing, snow shoveling
11 Wife working has little or no effect on marriage-other factors more important
12 Wife gets too independent and career minded-self-centered-threatens marriage
13 Children in families where mom works are more independent-well adjusted
14 Wife needs to be more organized at home when she works (organization is critical)
15 Wife with children can work part-time with few problems
16 Increased respect for wife who works and contributes to family (both should work)
17 Family, especially husband, has to share chores and responsibilities
18 Wife gets too involved with social aspects outside family-especially men-affairs
19 Puts stress on marriage/family-causes problems
20 People shouldn't care/they get too involved with material things
21 Children more apt to go astray and be insecure
22 Wife is less dependent on husband/likes independence
23 If wife doesn’t work, she could become an alcoholic-lost self-esteem
24 Competition over who’s in charge of the money-his/her money-who’s paying the bills
25 Woman feels better about herself-happy
26 Women's lib is destructive to the home
27 Wife becomes resentful because she has job and housework (husband has job only)
28 A strong marriage can stand wife working
29 Place/calling for woman is in home/wife and mother is demanding role
30 The reason women work is to pay bills
31 Loss of communication (need to keep open)
32 Good for women to work if they want to/no problems
33 Woman has to set goals/priorities for her self/can handle both home and job
34 Wife is bored/unhappy staying home
35 People you work with pressure you into their life styles
36 Working mothers (may) cause divorce/break up
37 Woman more in touch with world-better outlook
38 More money-standard of living up
39 Makes for conflict of interests
40 Just don’t think women should work
41 A woman who works carries a double load
42 Put physical and mental stress on woman
43 Couple needs to work everything out beforehand – housework finances - all the ramifications
44 One parent must be home to nurture the children
45 Children are ones most affected when wife works
46 Okay if husband is agreeable (mutual agreement); if not, problems
47 Man looks upon wife's education as investment – wants a return
48 Girls nowadays should be trained for some work
49 Couple aren't going to have children so wife has plenty of free time even though she works
50 Family that has faith in God can be happy
51 There is great lack of adequate child care (hard to find someone)
52 Now there is more flexibility for women to do what they want
53 Its okay/good for wife to work if just husband and wife at home
54 A wife who is really happy doesn't go to work
55 Women should do volunteer work, especially in schools
56 Couple/family get less time together if wife works
57 Couple shouldn't bring home problems
58 Women who work seem to be divorced or single
59 Women shouldn't take a man's job
60 Costs too much for clothes, car, child care, if wife works
61 Doesn't want wife gone overnight
62 Woman has hard time adjusting to being a housewife after working in her profession - misses career
63 The Lord/Bible wants women to be helpers/mothers
64 Causes changes in roles and priorities of wife and husband
65 It is not the quantity of time the mother spends with kids, its the quality
66 Problems arise cause people are inflexible
67 Wife only working to help husband
68 Respondent had good experience growing up with both parents working
69 Wife works for security in case of husband's death
70 Wife who works has no time for activities outside home (school volunteer)
71 Meeting other men/women
72 Depends on kind of job/hours, i.e. stripper or nurse
73 Makes for misunderstanding/poor communications
74 Okay as long as both work same hours
75 Gives woman a chance to get out of a bad marriage
76 Enhances marriage - better communication - sharing -closeness
77 Children want their mother home - doing more for them
78 Wife might not be home when needed (late dinner)
79 Hard to plan week end trips and vacations
80 Two people are working for common goal
81 Okay to work but put family first before job
82 Woman shouldn't work unless absolutely necessary
83 Woman can work if kids are small; not when
84 "Bad role model" for boys if woman stays home - they think women shouldn't work
85 Its hard to start work after you've been home entire married life
86 Spouse start spend money unwisely
87 More responsibility placed on the man
88 Okay if mom is home when kids are home
89 U.S. economy causes most family/marital problems
90 Women are discriminated against in business world
91 Man resents/refuses to do domestic chores
92 If woman works - go right after baby is born rather than 3 years (it feels rejection)
93 Problems because "head of household" idea is disappearing
94 Need more hours in the day/hectic
95 Family was helped by Family Service Counseling
96 We eat out more often
97 Big difference between "have to" - "want to" work
98 Don't worry about money problems
99 Working helps wife keep her sanity
100 More divorces when wife makes more money
101 Husband/wife works different shifts - stressful
102 Goals should be defined adequately/goals/be aware of roles
103 If wife doesn't like job, can cause problems
104 I do my duty, what's expected for my family
105 Woman who works misses out on a lot of family things
106 If people want to stay married don't live in Dallas, Texas
107 This is my own opinion
108 Misunderstandings of husbands ego
109 Good and bad effects (wouldn't clarify)
110 Its a way of life for young couples
111 Wife felt guilty about leaving baby to go to work; husband felt she thought more of baby than him
112 Wife worked some/stayed home some - no problem – worked out okay
113 It all depends on whether wife is happy with job
114 Each should maintain individuality and be able to give to the other
115 Bad enough one person coming home irritable, not two people
116 Man should be boss/breadwinner
117 Couple relies too much on wife's income
118 Lack of cooperation from family
119 If its week ends and nights, its difficult for family
120 Couples would have to "make time for each other"
121 Women have more to contribute than just staying home
122 Husband makes more money for household
123 Wife expects too much from man/gets bossy
124 Exposure to people and things good
125 Children tend not to be as close to the parents/mother when she works
126 I think it enlightens and broadens marriage and the whole family
127 Every thing is great if wife keeps her cool
128 I was more conscientious of children; it could have been guilt motivation
129 I feel environment is important for the security of the children; they can sense if she is working for her pleasure
130 My working allows him to be lazier
131 He has guilt feelings about income difficulties
132 Gives one less private, personal time
133 Father gains more understanding for children by watching children when wife works
134 If both parents work, kids must have good child care
135 Problems when man is student and wife working
136 Both salaries should go in common pool
137 Not fair for wife of high income husband to work
138 Husband don't like her to work, but they need the money
139 Husband says when women get money, they think different
140 In many cases they want things to be the same
997 Inapplicable
998 Don't know
999 Refused