Family ties and marital happiness: The different marital experiences of black and white newlywed couples

Susan Goff Timmer, Joseph Veroff, Shirley Hatchett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


This paper explores the relationship of family ties to black and white couples' marital happiness over the first 3 years of their marriages. Respondents were 115 black and 136 white couples interviewed as part of the Early Years of Marriage study. Although there were many similarities in the way blacks and whites felt about and interacted with their families, black couples were less likely to argue over matters pertaining to family, visited their families more often but perceived fewer family members able to help if needed. Hierarchical panel regressions showed that close family ties had no effect on the marital happiness of whites but significantly predicted black couples' marital happiness, particularly the ties to the husband's family. Predictions of marital happiness further varied by low and high structural stress (low income combined with early family formation), such that low-stress blacks' increased closeness to their in-laws from year 1 to year 3 predicted marital happiness. For high-stress blacks, the couple's closeness to the husband's family in year 1 and increases in that closeness by year 3 predicted increased marital happiness. Findings point to the importance of accounting for both ethnicity and structural context for understanding the paths couples take in establishing happy marriages.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)335-359
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Social and Personal Relationships
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 1996
Externally publishedYes


  • Extended family ties
  • Marital adjustment
  • Race differences

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Communication
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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