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Give and You Shall Receive? Generosity, Sacrifice, & Marital Quality

National Marriage Project Working Paper No. 11-1

28 Pages Posted: 9 Dec 2011  

Jeffrey Dew

Utah State University - College of Education and Human Services - Family Studies

W. Bradford Wilcox

University of Virginia

Date Written: December 8, 2011

Abstract

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

Dew, Jeffrey and Wilcox, W. Bradford, Give and You Shall Receive? Generosity, Sacrifice, & Marital Quality (December 8, 2011). National Marriage Project Working Paper No. 11-1. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1970016 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1970016

Jeffrey Dew

Utah State University - College of Education and Human Services - Family Studies ( email )

Logan, UT
United States

W. Bradford Wilcox (Contact Author)

University of Virginia ( email )

1400 University Ave
Charlottesville, VA 22903
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.virginia.edu/sociology/peopleofsociology/bwilcox.htm

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