What Does Marriage Mean to Us? Marital Centrality among Newlywed Couples


newlyweds, marital attitudes, dyadic relationship/quality/satisfaction, commitment, paradigms


With marriage now delayed until later in the life course, developmental and young adult scholars have increasingly focused on how relational and marital beliefs of unmarried young adults influence developmental and relational trajectories. Yet little research has explored how these same perceptions and beliefs may alter adult relationships and marriages. Using a national U.S. sample of 1,755 newlywed couples, we explored how beliefs about the centrality of marriage were associated with marital quality and commitment. A common-fate approach that simultaneously allowed for both individual and couple-level analyses was used. Results suggested that higher marital centrality beliefs separately for each partner and jointly as a couple were strongly associated with higher interpersonal commitment to one’s spouse and the general level of commitment in the relationship. Significant indirect effects found for husbands, wives, and at the couple-level suggested that higher marital centrality beliefs had an indirect association through commitment with higher relationship satisfaction, less instability, and higher reports of positive communication. Marital beliefs around the centrality of marriage appear to be strongly connected to the establishment of commitment and relationship quality among married couples. Results call for the expansion of the marital and relational belief literature into the context of adult relationships.

Original Publication Citation

Willoughby, B. J., Yorgason, J.B., James, S., & Holmes, E. (accept pending minor revisions). What does marriage mean to us? Marital centrality among newlywed couples. Journal of Family Issues.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date


Permanent URL



Journal of Family Issues




Family, Home, and Social Sciences


Family Life

University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor