Economic Strain, Friends' Support, and Relationship Satisfaction in Argentinean Couples: Paths of Influence and Gender Differences
Falconier, Mariana Karin
Epstein, Norman B
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Since their worst economic crisis in December 2001, Argentineans have lived in an atmosphere of great economic stress. However, the effects of this crisis on the Argentinean couples' relationships are still unknown. Based on Conger and his colleagues' family stress model, the present study examined the indirect link between economic strain and relationship satisfaction found in previous studies. It expanded on previous research in the field by (a) focusing on a culturally different population, (b) identifying each partner's level of economic strain and measuring it as a subjective experience of stress rather than an objective economic difficulty, (c) including both males' and females' variables in the same conceptual and statistical model, (d) proposing both psychological aggression and positive behaviors toward the partner as mediators between economic strain and relationship satisfaction, and (e) including perceived support from friends as a factor potentially buffering the effect of each partner's economic strain on their own relational behavior. This study used self-report data provided by 144 heterosexual couples recruited from an outpatient mental health clinic in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 2003 and 2004. After controlling for partners' levels of education, relationship status, time living together, and presence of children, path analysis and post hoc analyses suggested different gender patterns. Males experienced higher economic strain than females, and only their economic strain was associated with the relational behaviors of both partners (greater psychological aggression by both partners and less positive behavior by females). However, females' relationship satisfaction seemed to be more affected by these relational behaviors than males' did. No positive buffering effects of perceived friends' support were found for either gender. Males' perceived support from friends had a negative influence on the couple as it directly increased each partner's psychological aggression and directly and indirectly decreased each partner's relationship satisfaction. By contrast, females' support from friends directly increased the males' positive behaviors toward their partners. This study demonstrates the importance of including both partners' economic strain, psychological aggression, positive behaviors, and relationship satisfaction in a model of couple response to economic strain. Limitations and implications of this study are discussed.