In the past, much of the literature on marital quality and stability has suggested that effective communication, positive affect, and spouses’ emotional support are important to marital quality (Gottman and Levenson, 2000; Gottman and Notarius, 2000 Popenoe, 2004; Sanchez and Ganger, 2000; Whitehead and Popenoe, 2001). Other works have also suggested that “commitment,” that is feelings regarding the permanency of marriage, encourages marital quality. However, to date, few studies have empirically investigated the relationship between commitment and marital quality (Surra and Gray, 2000).
This dissertation investigates the relationships between commitment, marital disruption and instability, and marital quality, utilizing the context of job loss. The study examines the loss of husbands’ jobs at a corporation in the South around the year 2000. The job loss context is utilized, because past studies indicate that couples who have experienced job loss are more prone to marital instability and marital disruption than those who have not experienced job loss. For the purposes of research, it was important to find variation in commitment, marital stability, and marital quality. I suggest that commitment, through work at positive conditions of marriage, encourages marital quality. Findings indicate that most marriages in my sample remained successful in job loss, and all marriages remained stable. Most couples were highly committed, and small variations in commitment were not central to less success or marital disruption. Effective communication, quality time together, and positive affect seemed more important to marital quality over time than commitment; and lower commitment may be a result of decreased marital quality. Thus, commitment’s influence upon marital quality seems minimal, in comparison to effective communication, quality time together, and positive affect.