American Sociological Association

Health and Union Dissolution among Parenting Couples: Differences by Gender and Marital Status

Poor health may destabilize romantic unions by impeding fulfillment of family responsibilities, increasing stress, and causing financial strain. We hypothesized that the associations of health characteristics with union stability for parenting couples vary by the gender of the partner in poor health and the couple’s marital status because of gender and marital status differences in family responsibilities and health-related coping behaviors. Using longitudinal data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study (n = 2,997), we examined how three health measures predicted union dissolution for urban married and cohabiting couples with young children. Fathers’ depression at baseline predicted dissolution for all parenting couples, as did either partner developing depression between baseline and the following interview. For married parents, fathers’ health-related work limitations and mothers’ poor self-rated health also predicted dissolution. Associations between health conditions and dissolution differ by gender and marital status, possibly reflecting varying social norms about family responsibilities.


Christine Percheski and Jess M. Meyer





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