The purpose of this study was to determine the most important premarital couple protective and risk factors associated with marital relationship quality and stability by utilizing meta-analytic procedures to calculate standardized effect sizes for each factor. Extant research was identified and evaluated using the following inclusionary criteria: the dependent variables had to measure some form of marital quality or stability, the independent variables had to be premarital in nature, the participants had to have married after 1969, and the statistics necessary for the computation of a zero-order correlation effect size had to be available. Meta-analytic procedures were then utilized to code studies meeting inclusionary criteria, aggregate conceptually-comparable variables across included studies, and calculate standardized zero-order correlational effect sizes for each aggregated premarital factor. The predictive magnitude of premarital couple factors associated with subsequent marital outcomes was generally moderate. The results indicated both medium and small effect sizes for the various identified premarital couple predictors of marital relationship quality and instability. Positive premarital factors were generally associated with positive marital outcomes and negative premarital factors were generally associated with negative outcomes. The strongest significant protective and risk factors for marital distress and dissolution were as follows. The protective factors against marital distress included premarital relationship quality (e.g., love, satisfaction, support), premarital relationship stability (e.g., commitment, stability), attitude and value similarity (e.g., autonomy, lifestyle, expectations), positive premarital interactions (e.g., assertiveness, empathy, self-disclosure), religiosity similarity (e.g., religion importance, beliefs, denominational affiliation), and family-of-origin experience similarity factors (e.g., attachment, parent-child relationship, parents' marriage, physical violence). The protective factors against marital dissolution included premarital relationship stability, religiosity similarity, premarital relationship quality, and positive interactions. The risk factors for marital distress included negative premarital interactions (e.g., conflict, criticism, demand-withdraw) and premarital violence (e.g., physical aggression, sexual coercion, violence). The risk factors for marital dissolution included negative interactions and premarital cohabitation with one's spouse. No significant gender differences were identified for any of the premarital predictive factors. Study limitations, implications for future research, and recommendations for educators and clinicians are discussed.



College and Department

Family, Home, and Social Sciences; Family Life; Marriage and Family Therapy



Date Submitted


Document Type





Marital Quality, Marital Stability, Marital Outcomes, Marital Relationship, Premarital Predictors, Premarital Risk Factors