Give and You Shall Receive? Generosity, Sacrifice, & Marital Quality
National Marriage Project Working Paper No. 11-1
28 Pages Posted: 9 Dec 2011
Date Written: December 8, 2011
This study seeks to determine if spouses who reject the individualistic tenor of contemporary life by embracing a spirit of generosity and sacrifice in their marriages enjoy higher-quality marriages than their peers who do not. Relying on data from the new, nationally representative Survey of Marital Generosity (N=3,146), we found that for both husbands and wives, generosity — defined here as small acts of kindness, regular displays of affection and respect, and a willingness to forgive one’s spouse their faults and failings — was positively associated with marital satisfaction and negatively associated with marital conflict and perceived divorce likelihood. However, the association between making major sacrifices and marital quality varied by gender. Uniformly, wives who reported making major sacrifices for their husband were less satisfied in their marriages. But for husbands, this association depended on their levels of satisfaction with sacrificing. The more satisfied husbands reported being with sacrificing for their wives, the less making a major sacrifice for their wife was associated with lower marital satisfaction. Overall, then, regular expressions of generosity, but not major acts of sacrifice, are linked to higher quality marriages among contemporary spouses (aged 18-55).
Keywords: Generosity, Sacrifice, Marriage, Marital Quality, Individualism
JEL Classification: J12
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation