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Marital Instability over the Life Course, A Five-Wave Panel Study, Wave I (1980)




Booth, A. (2021, January 12). Marital Instability over the Life Course, A Five-Wave Panel Study, Wave I (1980).


This study describes data of individuals 55 years of age and under who were married in 1980. The goal of the study was to determine the impact of various factors that could affect the likelihood of divorce. Five waves were completed (1980, 1983, 1988, 1992-1994, and 1997). This particular dataset contains the 1980 wave. The 1980 survey focused on how wives' participation in the workforce affected marital quality and stability. Religion variables in this wave include the religious affiliations of the respondent and spouse (if applicable), frequency of church attendance, and the degree to which religion influences the life of the respondent.

The ARDA has added four additional variables to the original data set to enhance the users' experience on our site.

Data File

Cases: 2033
Variables: 544
Weight Variable: CASWGT, WATE

Data Collection


Funded By

National Institute on Aging

Collection Procedures

Participants were first interviewed by telephone in the fall of 1980. Spouses were not interviewed. Random digit dialing was used to select the sample.

Sampling Procedures

The population sampled was all husbands and wives in households in the contiguous United States in which both spouses were present and under the age of 55 and who had access to a telephone. A clustering technique was used to reduce selection costs. It was estimated that the respondents were sufficiently dispersed geographically so as not to create a design effect requiring attention in the analysis of the data. An additional random procedure was used to select a couple if more than one lived in the household and to select the husband or wife.

Among eligible households the response rate was 65 percent. Refusal rates were somewhat higher in metropolitan areas. To correct for this, the data contain a weight for metropolitan residence by region.

Principal Investigators

Alan Booth

Related Publications

Booth, Alan and David R. Johnson. 1985. "Tracking respondents in a telephone interview panel selected by random digit dialing." Sociological Methods and Research. 14:53-64.


Description of the variable JBCOM80 (Working Wife's Job Commitment):
A summated scale using four items:
Wife works because she wants a career (WWKCAB80)
Wife works for a feeling of accomplishment (WWKACP80)
Wife works because wants financial independence (WWKMNY80)
Wife's work preference: full-time, part-time, none (WIFEWK80)
Chronbach's alpha is .63. Because there were 30-50 don't knows, especially for WIFEWK80, all DK responses were recoded to the mid-points on the scale. The scale ranges from 4 to 15. The scale is valid only for working wives.

Description of the variable WORKPO80 (Wife's Work Potential):
WWKB480 Wife paid employee before marriage (Recoded Yes=1 Else=0)
WWKAFT80 Wife worked after marriage (Recoded Yes=1 Else=0)
WWKTIM80 Proportion married life wife worked (Recoded Always, Most of time=1 Else=0)
WFTMK80 Last year wife worked (Recoded 78, 79, 80=2 76, 77=1, Else=0)
WFEXP80 Wife has training or job experience (Recoded Yes=1 Else=0)
Chronbach's alpha=.68. To take into consideration the possibility that poor health might reduce work potential, these six variables were added then multiplied by .5 if the wife had a health problem. A health problem was defined if the wife's health was fair or poor or if she had a physical limitation. If she was pregnant, it was assumed she was healthy. Of the 836 non-working women for whom this scale is defined, 143 had a health problem. The scale ranges from 0 to 7.

Description of the variables LOGRMI80 and MI80 (Marital Instability 1980):
These indices of marital instability are based on items asked of people who are married. The initial development of the scale is described in detail in the following publications:

Booth, Alan, David Johnson, and John N. Edwards. 1983. "Measuring martial instability." Journal of Marriage and the Family. 45: 387-393.

Edwards, John N., David R. Johnson, and Alan Booth. "Coming apart: A prognostic instrument of marital breakup." Family Relations. 36: 165-170.

Johnson, David R., Lynn K. White, John N. Edwards, and Alan Booth. "Dimensions of martial quality: Toward methodological and conceptual refinement. Journal of Family Issues. 7: 31-49.

Higher scores indicate greater martial instability. The variable was logged to bring the distribution quality more into line with the assumptions needed for multiple regression (LOGRMI80).

Description of the variable MARHP180 (Marital Happiness 1980):
A summated scale using eleven items reflecting amount of happiness with: 1) extent of understanding received from spouse (SATISA80); 2) amount of love received (SATISB80); 3) extend of agreement about things (SATISC80); 4) sexual relationship (SATISD80); 5) spouse as someone who takes care of things around the house (SATISG80); 6) spouse as someone to do things with (SATISH80); 7) spouse's faithfulness (SATISI80); 8) evaluation of marriage as very happy, pretty happy, or not too happy (MARRYX80); 9) compared to other marriages, respondent's is better, same, or not as good (MARRYY80); 10) comparing marriage to 3 years ago, it is getting better, staying the same, or getting worse (STNGA80); and 11) strength of feelings of love respondent has for spouse (STRNGC80).

Scale has possible scores from 11 to 24. Variables were recoded where necessary so higher scores mean greater happiness.

Description of the variable MARPRB80 (Marital Problems 1980):
A summated scale using 13 items indicating presence of marital problems because either or both spouses: 1) gets angry easily (MARRYH80) ; 2) gets easily hurt (MARRYI80); 3) is jealous (MARRYJ80); 4) is domineering (MARRYK80); 5) is critical (MARRYL80); 6) is moody (MARRYM80); 7) won't talk to the other (MARRYN80); 8) has sexual relationship with others (MARRYO80); 9) has irritating habit (MARRYP80); 10) is not home enough (MARRYQ80); 11) spends money foolishly (MARRYR80); 12) drinks or uses drugs (MARRYS80); and 13) has been in trouble with the law (MARRYT80).

Higher scores indicates greater marital problems.

Description of the variable NTRACT80 (Spousal Interaction Scale):
A summated scale using five items: 1) eat main meal together (VALUEF80); 2) go shopping together (VALUEG80); 3) visit friends together (VALUEH80); 4) work around home together (VALUEI80); and 5) go out together (VALUEJ80).

Higher scores indicate greater interaction.

Description of the variable DSGRM80 (Spousal Disagreement Scale):
A summated scale using the following items: 1) disagreements over share of housework done by respondent (CHORED80); 2) frequency of disagreements with spouse (DISAGA80); 3) number of serious quarrels with spouse within the last two months (DISAGD80); and 4) arguments involving physical abuse (DISAGE80).

Scale ranges from 0 to 12. Higher scores indicate greater disagreement.

Description for the variable FAMINC80 (Total family income):
A combination of three items was used to construct this variable: 1) total family income over or under $20,000 (INCA80); 2) income category over $20,000 (INCB80); and 3) income category under $20,000 (INCC80). The few individuals who said their income was less than $20,000, but who wouldn't specify further, were assigned $12,500; the individuals indicating incomes of $20,000 or above who did not specify further were assigned $27,500. The midpoint of each interval listed in the questions was used to assign dollar value. For the last interval, $65,000 was used.

Description of the variable WFINC80 (Value of Wife's Income):
Wife's percentage of family income (WFCNTR80) multiplied by family income (FAMINC80).
Description of the variable SXROL80 (Sex roles scale):
A summated scale using seven items: 1) wife's most important task: caring for children; 2) husband should earn higher pay than wife; 3) husband shouldn't worry if wife gone overnight in connection with job; 4) if wife works full-time, husband should help with homework; 5) if jobs scarce, wife shouldn't work; 6) working mothers can have just as good of a relationship with kids; and 7) even if wife works, husband should be main breadwinner.

Higher scores indicate more traditional values.

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