Research on the merging of social networks among married couples tends to focus on the benefits of increased social capital, with the acknowledgment of potential stressors being limited primarily to in-law relationships. The purpose of the present study was to examine both positive (i.e., shared friend support) and negative (i.e., disapproval and interference of partner’s friends) aspects of friend ties on divorce across 16 years. Using a sample of 355 Black and White couples from the Early Years of Marriage project, we examined these associations with a Cox proportional hazard regression, controlling for a number of demographic and relational factors. Our findings indicate that (1) the negative aspects of couples’ friend ties are more powerful predictors of divorce than positive aspects; (2) at least early in marriage, husbands’ negative perceptions of wives’ friends are more predictive of divorce than are wives’ negative perceptions of husbands’ friends; (3) friendship disapproval may be less critical in the marital lives of Black husbands and wives than of White husbands and wives; and (4) the association between disapproval of wives’ friends at Year 1 and divorce may be partially explained by wives’ friends interfering in the marriage. Our findings are interpreted in light of possible mechanisms to explain the link between partner disapproval of friends and divorce, such as diminished interdependence, less network approval, and increased spousal conflict and jealousy.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Social Psychology
- Developmental and Educational Psychology
- Sociology and Political Science