Personality and compatibility: a prospective analysis of marital stability and marital satisfaction

J Pers Soc Psychol. 1987 Jan;52(1):27-40. doi: 10.1037//0022-3514.52.1.27.


The antecedents of marital stability (divorce or remaining married) and marital satisfaction (within the group that remains married) were investigated with a panel of 300 couples who were followed from their engagements in the 1930s until 1980. Twenty-two of the couples broke their engagements; of the 278 couples who married, 50 got divorced at some time between 1935 and 1980. Personality characteristics (measured by acquaintance ratings made in the 1930s) were important predictors of both marital stability and marital satisfaction. The three aspects of personality most strongly related to marital outcome were the neuroticism of the husband, the neuroticism of the wife, and the impulse control of the husband. In combination, the 17 major antecedent variables were moderately predictive of a criterion variable composed of both marital stability and marital satisfaction (R = .49). The three major aspects of personality accounted for more than half of the predictable variance. The remaining variance was accounted for by attitudinal, social-environment, and sexual history variables.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Divorce
  • Extraversion, Psychological
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Impulsive Behavior / psychology
  • Life Change Events
  • Male
  • Marriage*
  • Neurotic Disorders / psychology
  • Personal Satisfaction
  • Personality*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Social Environment