Variation in trajectories of women’s marital quality


Relationship quality, Latent class analysis, National Longitudinal Survey of Youth-1979, Socioeconomic status, Cohabitation, Divorce


I examine variation in trajectories of women’s marital quality across the life course. The analysis improves upon earlier research in three ways: (1) the analysis uses a sequential cohort design and data from the first 35 years of marriage; (2) I analyze rich data from a national sample; (3) I examine multiple dimensions of marital quality. Latent class growth analyses estimated on data from women in the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth-1979 (N = 2604) suggest multiple trajectories for each of three dimensions of marital quality, including two trajectories of marital happiness, two trajectories of marital communication, and three trajectories of marital conflict. Socioeconomic and demographic covariates are then used to illustrate how factors such as income, cohabitation, and race-ethnicity set individuals at risk of poor marital quality throughout the life course by differentiating between high and low trajectories of marital quality. Women on low marital quality trajectories are, as expected, at much greater risk of divorce. Taken together, these findings show how fundamental socioeconomic and demographic characteristics contribute to subsequent marital outcomes via their influence on trajectories of marital quality as well as providing a better picture of the complexity in contemporary patterns of marital quality.

Original Publication Citation

Spencer L. James. 2015. “Variation in Trajectories of Women’s Marital Quality.” SocialScience Research 49:16-30.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date


Permanent URL


Social Science Research




Family, Home, and Social Sciences


Family Life

University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor