Neighborhood Context and Financial Strain as Predictors of Marital Interaction and Marital Quality in African American Couples

Pers Relatsh. 2003 Sep;10(3):389-409. doi: 10.1111/1475-6811.00056.


Demographic characteristics, family financial strain, neighborhood-level economic disadvantage, and state of residence were tested as predictors of observed warmth, hostility, and self-reported marital quality. Participants were 202 married African American couples who resided in a range of neighborhood contexts. Neighborhood-level economic disadvantage predicted lower warmth during marital interactions, as did residence in the rural south. Consistent with the family stress model (e.g., Conger & Elder, 1994), family financial strain predicted lower perceived marital quality. Unexpectedly, neighborhood-level economic disadvantage predicted higher marital quality. Social comparison processes and degree of exposure to racially based discrimination are considered as explanations for this unexpected result. The importance of context in relationship outcomes is highlighted.