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A Profile of Later Life Marriages: Comparisons by Gender and Marriage Order

Divorce, Separation, and Remarriage: The Transformation of Family

ISBN: 978-1-78635-230-9, eISBN: 978-1-78635-229-3

Publication date: 29 September 2016



This study assessed the marital quality of older men and women in first marriages and remarriages, examining gender differences within first marriages and remarriages, and marriage order differences for men and women separately.


The study employed nationally representative survey data for 1,243 married adults, aged 62–91, from Wave II of the National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project (NSHAP), conducted in 2010–2011. Marital quality was assessed with six positive relationship dimensions and two negative ones.


Descriptive data revealed mean ratings above scale midpoints on all positive dimensions of marital quality, and mean ratings generally below the midpoints on the negative dimensions for men and women in both first marriages and remarriages. Multivariate analyses indicated an overall stronger influence of gender than marriage order on marital quality for this sample of older adults. In both first marriages and remarriages, men reported more favorable perceptions of marriage across several positive dimensions (e.g., emotional satisfaction, physical pleasure), though they also reported more spousal criticism than did women. Within gender groups, marriage order was not associated with any of the dimensions of marital quality that were assessed.


This study demonstrates that marriage order does not have a significant influence on the marital quality of older adults today, but that long-standing gender differences in marital quality hold across marriage order. These findings are critical given the increasingly diverse marital histories of individuals entering old age in the early 21st century, and the importance of a positive, supportive marriage for older adults’ well-being.




The National Health, Social Life and Aging Project (NSHAP) is supported by the National Institutes of Health, including the National Institute on Aging (R37AG030481; R01AG033903), the Office of Women’s Health Research, the Office of AIDS Research, and the Office of Behavioral and Social Science Research (R01AG021487) and by NORC which was responsible for the data collection.


We appreciate data management assistance provided by Joshua Goode and the research assistance of Anne Carroll.


Cooney, T.M., Proulx, C.M. and Snyder-Rivas, L.A. (2016), "A Profile of Later Life Marriages: Comparisons by Gender and Marriage Order", Divorce, Separation, and Remarriage: The Transformation of Family (Contemporary Perspectives in Family Research, Vol. 10), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 1-37.



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