Childhood adversity, daily stress, and marital strain in same-sex and different-sex marriages




Donnelly, Rachel Erin

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Childhood adversity has enduring consequences for individuals throughout life, including heightened vigilance and increased reactivity to stress that adversely affects marital quality in adulthood. Past research on childhood adversity and adulthood marital dynamics has focused only on heterosexual married couples, raising questions about how these effects may differ for men and women in same-sex marriages. In this study, we analyze dyadic diary data from 756 men and women in 378 gay, lesbian, and heterosexual marriages to consider how childhood adversity negatively influences daily marital strain in potentially different ways across gender and union types. We consider same-day as well as lagged effects of daily stress on daily marital strain depending on level of exposure to childhood adversity. We further consider how spouses’ histories of childhood adversity may work in tandem to shape reactions to stress and the consequences of stress for marital strain. Results indicate that higher levels of childhood adversity are associated with more daily marital strain for all respondents. Childhood adversity magnifies the impact of daily stress on marital strain, and more so for different-sex than same-sex couples. We extend the literature on childhood adversity, daily stress, and marital strain by using dyadic daily diary data and including same-sex as well as different-sex married couples.



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