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Keywords:

  • commitment;
  • life course;
  • marriage;
  • qualitative research;
  • social construction

This paper articulates a theoretical framework for understanding how individuals orient themselves toward marital commitment. Using a life history interview methodology and interpretive framework, it examines the orientations toward marital commitment for a sample of women and men, single and married, between the ages of 28 and 35 (N = 75). Specifically, it elaborates a multidimensional view of marital commitment with attention to two multifaceted components, one value rational and the other practical. Borrowing concepts from exchange and identity models of commitment, it analyzes interpretive processes involved in their construction. Some preliminary comments on the role social position plays in shaping constructions of marital commitment are articulated and the implications of this model discussed.