Marital-Status and Sex Differences in Problems Reported by Married and Cohabiting Couples


  • Thanks are due Luc M. Lefebvre for his helpful assistance with the data analyses reported here and Norman Thompson and an anonymous reviewer for their perceptive comments on a previous draft. This research was supported by NSF Grant 33069X to the third author. Requests for reprints should be sent to John Cunningham, School of Behavioural Sciences, Macquarie University, North Ryde, NSW 2113, Australia.


Fifty married and 50 unmarried, cohabiting couples were asked to describe four problems which occurred in their relationshipproblems in which one partner was unhappy about the other's behavior, or in which the two of them disagreed about joint decisions. DesDite overall similarity of the kinds of problems reDorted by married and cohabiting- roiinles. marriea women were particularlv likely to complain that their nusDands did not give them sutticient attention. Husbands were especially unlikely to mention tnat their wives were too independent. After specirying two alternative behaviors for each partner in the problum situation, couples rated their degree of satisfaction with each of the four resulting behavioral combinations. Wives rated themselves as more unhappy when their problem arose than cohabiting partners rated themselves, and husbands were least unhappy. Wives' overall satisfaction was affected by their problem situation most of all, husbands' least of all, and cohabitors' satisfaction to an intermediate degree. Results were discussed with reference to the greater advantage that husbands derive from marriage than wives.