The Association of Childhood Adversities and Abuse on Marital Functioning: A Longitudinal Secondary Analysis Study

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The current research analyzed the ways in which retrospective reports of traumatic childhood experiences and physical and emotional abuse may be associated with marital functioning among long-term married, intact couples in adulthood. Specifically, using a longitudinal sample of US adults who were married to the same person across the 10 years of the study (Midlife in the United States, n=1824), the study tested a set of related hypotheses that the association of childhood adversities with marital functioning would be mediated by personality traits, perceived control, and self-acceptance measured during adulthood. Outcome marital functioning variables included perceived risk of marriage ending (marital risk), frequency of marital disagreements, perceived support from marital partner, and strain in the marital relationship. Overall, the results indicate that childhood adversities have a strong association with marital risk but not with partner disagreement, partner support, or partner strain among long-term married couples. Personality traits, perceived control, and self-acceptance did not mediate this relationship. Additionally, the results provide limited support for the hypothesis that childhood emotional and physical abuse will be associated with later marital functioning. However, they did provide support that childhood emotional and physical abuse are associated with personality traits reported in adulthood. Emotional abuse was significantly associated with the personality traits of agency, agreeableness, neuroticism, and conscientiousness while physical abuse was significantly associated with agreeableness, neuroticism, and conscientiousness. Although the current research did not support the hypotheses fully, it did offer us a roadmap of how future research may be expanded to further explore these issues.

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Psychology; Trauma; Abuse; Childhood Adversity; Marriage; Relationships


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Union Local


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Wethington, Elaine

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Hazan, Cynthia

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Human Development

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M.A., Human Development

Degree Level

Master of Arts

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dissertation or thesis

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