Thursday, September 22, 2011

Personality, Partner Similarity and Couple Satisfaction

Recent development in the field of personality psychology has indicated that personality traits may be a powerful influence over our satisfaction within relationships and perhaps even predictive of whom we are attracted to as a couple.

The United States boasts one of the highest divorce rates in the world, according to Popenoe & Whitehead (2010), who report that 40% of first marriages, 60% of second marriages and 73% of third marriages result in divorce. Furthering the cause for concern is the research predicting that only 25% of couples will remain happily married after only ten years of marriage (Popenoe & Whitehead, 2010).

Personality, Partner Similarity and Couple Satisfaction: Do Opposites Attract or Birds of a Feather Flock Together?

The goal of that study was to examine the relationship between personality and marital satisfaction and partner pairing. A U.S. national sample of 10,000 married couples (2,000 couples from each of the five couple typologies: Vitalized, Harmonious, Conventional, Conflicted, and Devitalized) took the PREPARE/ENRICH couple assessment and the results were examined to determine whether couples with similar personalities were more satisfied in their marriage than couples with dissimilar personalities and whether individuals were more likely to pair with someone with a similar personality or different personality. Couples were grouped into four possible categories: both high, both low, both moderate, and one high - one low, based on their scores within each of the five personality scales. A frequency analysis was then performed to determine how many couples fell into each category. A Pearson chi - squared test determined whether the distribution was significantly different than what could be expected by chance.
The sample consisted ages from 18 to over 70 years old, with the majority (18%) of the population falling into the category of 26 - 30 years old. The median length of marriage was 1 - 5 years (27%), with a range of less than one year to over 40 years of marriage. The majority (44%) of participants reported living in a suburban area. Over half of the participants reported having a higher education. The vast majority (78%) of the sample identified themselves as Caucasian. 77% reported their current marriage as their first marriage.

Results indicate that there is no relationship between personality similarities/differences and marital satisfaction [using the Big5 to assess personality and a crosstabulation to calculate similarity, THE AUTHOR SHOULD HAD USED THE 16PF5 ], and that individuals are 66% more likely to pair with someone with a different personality than their own. [Well, that explains why the divorce rate is so high!]

However, personality similarities/differences do play a role in judgment of marital satisfaction, as those couples who both score high in each of the five dimensions of personality were significantly more satisfied in their relationship than those who both scored low.

According to PREPARE/ENRICH, Vitalized couples tend to be the happiest .... couples with a typology of Vitalized (high satisfaction) will most often have both partners scoring high in all five SCOPE (Big5) scales ... although it is generally accepted that a variety of personality combinations may result in successful relationships, it appears that the “best” combination for a happy couple is for both couples to score high on the five factors.

weak points of research:

* Big 5 to assess personality: Since the traits which compose the Big Five model are relatively broad, they are not nearly as predictive and accurate for explaining human behavior as some of the more abundant, specific traits. Participants’ personality was measured using SCOPE personality scales, which is a component of the PREPARE/ENRICH (Olson & Larson, 2008) couple assessment.
* How similarity was calculated
* Remember The median length of marriage in the sample was 1 - 5 years (27%), with a range of less than one year to over 40 years of marriage.  Klohnen & Luo in 2005: " whereas similarity in attitudes and values appears to be important early on in the relationship and may play an important role in relationship progression, personality similarity becomes more important as the relationship reaches greater commitment."

Dijkstra and Barelds from the University of Groningen, The Netherlands had written "The present study's results, as well as the results found in previous studies (e.g., Eastwick & Finkel, 2008), may be used to EDUCATE people, especially singles, about what really matters in long-term relationships, for instance, similarity in personality*, instead of complementarity."
("Perceptions of Ideal and Former Partners' Personality and Similarity")
*personality measured with a normative test.

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