Premarital Relatonship

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DISHARMONY: PREMARITAL RELATIONSHIP DISSOLUTION

A Dissertation

Submitted to the Graduate School of the University of Notre Dame in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of

Doctor of Philosophy

by Clint C. Elison

David M. Klein, Director

Graduate Program in Sociology Notre Dame, Indiana July 2010

© Copyright 2010 Clint C. Elison

DISHARMONY: PREMARITAL RELATIONSHIP DISSOLUTION

Abstract by Clint C. Elison

Using data from the RELATE Institute, this dissertation explores three aspects of premarital relationship dissolution: 1) the experience of breaking up; 2) the occurrence of positive breakups; and 3) a comparison of the factors that lead some couples to break up and others to stay together or marry. Premarital romantic partners completed a relationship evaluation instrument and were contacted eighteen months later to investigate changes in their relationship. If the respondents were no longer dating their time 1 partner, they were asked to complete a breakup instrument. Employing quantitative methods including OLS and logistic regression, the results indicate that a greater level of commitment between partners, such as cohabiting or engagement, leads to a more difficult breakup experience. One-sided relationships, where one partner is more committed, usually result in one-sided breakups. Forming a new relationship helps to overcome negative aspects of a breakup. Overall, breakups do not have long-term negative consequences for people, even if they get dumped. Most breakups can be considered positive, but most are not friendly.

Clint C. Elison The friendliness of a breakup is influenced most by the relationship quality and the difference in partners’ commitment levels near the end, and by the breakup method (e.g., a sudden decision by one partner, a fight, or a discussion with a joint decision). Years after a breakup, a person’s feelings about the ending of their relationship are influenced by the friendliness of the breakup, the passage of time, the likelihood that they will get back together with their former partner, and their own coping with the breakup. Relationship dissolution occurs primarily because of dissatisfaction with the relationship and some individual partner characteristics, especially extraversion, difference in religious affiliation, and difference in substance use. Relationship progression to marriage is best predicted by age, financial considerations (income and materialism), and approval of the relationship by parents and friends. Cohabitation is important to both processes, as couples who live together are less likely to break up but also less likely to marry.

This is for my parents who taught me with their inquisitive and musical minds, my advisor, David Klein, and all the women with whom I formed a relationship that eventually dissolved.

ii

CONTENTS

Tables ...................................................................................................................................v Acknowledgments.............................................................................................................. vi Chapter 1: Introduction ........................................................................................................1 1.1 The Importance of Studying Premarital Breakups.............................................2 1.2 Premarital Relationship Theories .......................................................................7 1.3 Relationship Dissolution Research ..................................................................26 1.4 Difficulty of Obtaining Breakup Data .............................................................36 1.5 Chapter Structure .............................................................................................41 Chapter 2: The Process and Experience of Breaking Up ...................................................43 2.1 Introduction...
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