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Early Family Ties and Marital Stability Over 16 Years: The Context of Race and Gender


  • School of Public Health, University of Michigan, 1415 Washington Heights, Room 3822, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2029.

  • Department of Human Development & Family Studies, University of Connecticut, 348 Mansfield Road, Unit 1058, Storrs, CT 06269-1058.

University of Michigan, Institute for Social Research, 5108 ISR, Ann Arbor, MI 48106-1248 (


Spouses' emotional ties to family early in marriage are linked to marital outcomes, but little is known about how these ties affect marital stability and whether these effects vary by race and gender. The present study examines the links between emotional ties to family of origin and in-laws in the first year of marriage and marital stability over the first 16 years of marriage. Data were collected as part of a longitudinal study following Black American (n = 199) and White American (n = 174) married couples. Analyses revealed that perceptions of closeness to in-laws early in marriage were associated with odds of divorce over time, but the results varied by race and gender. Findings are discussed in terms of couples' ties to family early in marriage and the role that in-law bonds play for marital stability. We also offer insights for practitioners who provide premarital and marital education and counseling services to couples.