Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Human Development and Family Studies

Department name when degree awarded

Family, Consumer, and Human Development

Committee Chair(s)

Jean M. Lown


Jean M. Lown


Randall M. Jones


Joan R. McFadden


Barbara R. Rowe


Michelle M. Hartzell-Lawson


By using a conceptual framework derived from social exchange theory, this study examined the relationship between financial problems and divorce. Nationally representative data from the "Marital Instability Over the Life Course" panel study was used to determine if financial problems reported at one interview could predict those who would divorce by the subsequent interview. A self-replicating design allowed data analyses for three separate time periods: 1980-1983 , 1983- 1988, and 1988-1992.

The sample used in this study consisted of l ,620 married men and women under the age of 55. Additionally, the participants were in their first marriages.

Divorce was the only dependent variable. The independent variables included eight financial problems: (a) husband's job interferes with family life, (b) husband 's job satisfaction, (c) wife's job satisfaction, (d) wife's work preference, (e) satisfaction with spouse as breadwinner, (f) satisfaction with financial situation, (g) spending money foolishly/unwisely, and (h) financial situation getting better or worse. Additionally, total number of financial problems, age at marriage, gender, income, and presence of children under age 6 were used as independent variables in the analyses. Bivariate correlation and discriminant analysis procedures were used to analyze the data.

The results indicated statistically significant relationships between financial problems and divorce for all independent variables except wife's job satisfaction, gender, and income. However, none of the independent variables (singularly or in combination) explained more than 5% of the variance in divorce;·financial problems were inadequate predictors of divorce.

Although the results of this investigation did not provide substantive support for the popular belief that money problems are a major cause of divorce, this research filled a gap in the divorce literature, posited a clearer definition of financial problems, and provided a more complete conceptual model of the relationships between marital problems and divorce. Finally, the unanswered questions raised by this study indicate the need for continued investigation of the impact that financial issues have on marital relationships.