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Exploring Social Class: Voices of Inter-Class Couples


  • Teresa McDowell, EdD, Chair, Department of Counseling Psychology, Lewis and Clark College; Tatiana Melendez-Rhodes, PhD, was serving as an adjunct in the Marriage, Couple and Family Therapy (MCFT) program at Lewis & Clark; Erin Althusius, MA, Sara Hergic, MA, Gillian Sleeman, MA, Nicky Kieu My Ton, MA, and A.J. Zimpfer-Bakwere, MA, masters students at Lewis & Clark.

Address correspondence to Teresa McDowell, Department of Counseling Psychology, Lewis and Clark College, 0615 SW Palatine Hill Road, Mailstop 86, Portland, Oregon 97219; E-mail:


Social class is not often discussed or examined in-depth in couple and family therapy research and literature even though social class shapes familial relationships and is considered an important variable in marital satisfaction. In this qualitative study, we explored the perceptions of eight couples who made lasting commitments across class lines by asking them about the impact of their social class backgrounds on their relationships. Three categories of themes emerged including: (a) differences and similarities in values and attitudes toward education, work, money, and class awareness/classism, (b) relationship issues involving families of origin, friends, and class-based couple conflict, and (c) differences in economic resources, social capital and privileges/opportunities. Implications for assessment and treatment of couples are included.

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