Psycho-Social Factors Influencing Marital Instability

Project and Seminar Material for Sociology

Psycho-Social Factors Influencing Marital Instability


When peaceful atmosphere is replaced with chaos in marriage, the consequences are usually grievous. It results in marital instability, marriage separation, divorce or even death of the couple. This has serious effects on the home, family, children of the marriage, society and the nation. This paper is focused on Psychological factors that influence marital instability. The paper explained the concept of marital instability, examined and discussed several factors that could be adopted to aid and enhance marital stability by couples. A descriptive survey approach was used to carry out the study. Questionnaires were distributed to residents of Garki Abuja. Two hypotheses were posited and tested using a chi square. Data is analysed using percentages. it was discovered during the research that,factors as communication between spouses, intimacy, emotional bonding, commitment, affection, parental roles, spouse’s employment, job and sexual satisfactions as well as religious orientation are some of the factors that could affect or enhance marital stability. Based on these, it is recommended that couples should ensure and cultivate the habit of effective marital communication, affection and intimacy to enhance their marital stability.

Chapter One


1.1 Background Of The Study

According to Gove (1986), marriage is described as the state of being united with a person of the opposite sex as husband or wife; the institution whereby men and women are joinedin a special kind of social and legal dependence for the purpose founding and maintaining afamily; an act of marrying or rite by which the married status is affected. It is the building block of human society, and when the foundation of society is weakened, considerable damage results. Therefore, the growth of any society depends largely on the ability of the family institution to perform its role effectively.

Ayodele (2001) defines marriage as the union of a man and his wife in body and soul. It is the institution in society in which a man and woman are joined in a special kind of social and legal dependence to found and maintain a family. Notwithstanding, the purpose for marriage is far more important than the mere legalized sexual relationship among spouses (Agbutuin, 1990). To this end, Yahaya (1998) opined that in marriage, there are lots of stresses, bitterness, failures and successes. Other factors that threaten marital stability include age of marriage, educational level of spouse, religion, income, type of marriage, fertility status, kind of family background of spouses, communication, culture, etc. From the foregoing, a lot of researches on marital instability show that many factors are responsible for the misnomer in marital union.

The term marital instability is used to refer to the process whereby marriages break down through separation, desertion or divorce and where relevant to the subsequent re-partnering of the individual are concerned. Separation and legal divorce are socialphenomenon which is caused by the couples involved, and which could either resultfrom social, economic, psychological or cultural phenomenon. Many marriages remain shaky for a very long time; some of them recover equilibrium and become cohesive again, this shaky period may lead to separation.

Nearly everyone begins their marriage with a high level of satisfaction with their relationship and a high level of optimism for the future. Yet, marriages end in a divorce for many couples, while marital satisfaction declines over time for even more couples. People tend to fall prey to the confirmation bias, they tend to be more optimistic about themselves than for other, and they tend to interpret facts in a way that supports their desired view of the world.
There are hundreds of factors which are responsible for marital instability in the world today. They range from several factors; social issues, psychological issues, economical issues, cultural issue, biological issues, emotional issues, spiritual issues, amongst others. Even some are as a result of the combination of two factors. The term ‘marital instability’ is a very vast and broad topic. Therefore focusing on a key factor responsible for marital instability can give us a good guide on what the term “marital instability” is all about.

Women’s relationship with their partners is grounded on several factors best known to them (Psychological expectations some of which includes; regular income, sexual satisfaction, paternal responsibility and equity). These factors are what they take to their relationship which serves as homeostasis. It is the things they hold on to, which guide and sustains them throughout their stay in marriage. Women are usually satisfied in marriage when their needs are being met by their husband, and when their expectations and desires are being met and satisfied. Now, when there’s a conflict between the expectations of a woman in marriage and the present outcome, this would definitely lead to a breakdown in their social interaction with their spouse. At this stage, women tend to be so stubborn, inconsiderate, less communicative and unresponsive to their partner. Indirectly, this is to say that their psychosocial system now shapes their behaviour. Research has shown that a regular occurrence of this would eventually lead to a break down in marriage.

Psychosocial factors as a phenomenon are behavioural issues which arise from problems or social problems in a society which shapes or affects the social functioning of an individual in society. Psychosocial factors deals majorly with the study of how and why people think, feel and do the things they do depending upon the situation they are in. It involves studying the impact that the social environment and group interactions have on people’s attitudes and behaviours towards others. Having said all that, psychosocial factors are those factors that are responsible for the behavioural change of an individual toward a person or groups of persons. Therefore, the word “psychosocial” in this context can best be explained as; how a woman’s personal behaviour about situations in marriage affects her external behaviour towards her husband.

This study will therefore be aimed at looking at the some of the psychosocial factors that influences marital instability. It aims to breakdown these factors and explains how and why women act the way they do before marital dissolutions. Also, to look deeply into the consequences an implications of these and how they affect the development of any society. The psychosocial factors that will be examined therefore are; level of spousal communication, type of attachment patterns between spouses, parental marital background of the wife, and lastly, rate of in-law’s involvement.

Spousal Communication as a social factor involves the communication pattern that goes between a woman and her husband. Communication therefore can be seen as “the imparting or interchange of thoughts, opinions, or information by speech, writing, or signs”. It can also be referred to as the process used by people to create and manage relationships. A marriage without effective communication is likely to crumble. Communication is a life wire of marriage relationship or any other meaningful relationship (Esere, 2002, 2006). Spousal communication is a critical element in marriage as it is an inevitable requirement before the commencement of the relationship and also necessary for the sustenance of the union. Communication is the heart of intimate human relationship and the foundation on which all other relationships are built; they also assert that it is the key to a successful couple relationship. In fact, the ability and the willingness to communicate have been found to be among the most important factors in maintaining a satisfying relationship.

Attachment pattern as a psychosocial factor is very important in any marriage. A growing number of studies suggest that, among individuals in relationships, attachment style/pattern is a significant predictor of relationship satisfaction. In Bowlby’s work on attachment pattern, there are two major categories of attachment pattern between two individuals in a relationship, and he also laid emphasis on the categories of attachment pattern that could either sustain or destroy a particular relationship. These patterns are secure attachment pattern and insecure attachment pattern. The secure attachment simply explains that, apartner with this type of attachment pattern are open to people, extroverts in nature, share feelings with their partners; securely attached adults would be more tolerant, less reactive, and prefer smaller interpersonal distances. Insecure attachment pattern on the other hand is categorized into two; the avoidant attachment pattern and the ambivalent attachment pattern. An avoidant and ambivalent attached individuals seek emotional distance and extreme closeness, respectively. When a woman is loosely attached to her husband, such woman tend to share secrets, find difficulty in sharing marital problems, such individual can hardly cope or bear unplanned circumstances.

Parental marital background of a particular partner is a psychosocial factor that shapes and develops one’s personality as one grows. As certain behaviours, characteristics and traits are said to be emulated from either the father or the mother. It is also of importance to know that the parental marital background of an individual greatly shapes a couples perceptionabout life, perception of other people and how to cope and deal with situations that arisesfrom one’s social environment. The effect of parental marital background on individuals is quite worrisome these days, as some researchers have tried drawing a link between a partner’s parental marital background and their stability in marriage. The word `family background’ would have been more preferable but the context is very broad as it entails issues like, single parent, family structure (polygamous e.t.c), educational background, literacy level, parental marital background, family’s social and economic status. Therefore, the area of interest to me is parental marital background. Some researchers have gone to the point of showing a clear relationship between a partner whose parent has either separated, divorced or being single and their stability in marriage with their future partners. Women whose parents have separated or divorced tend to have- higher level of marital instability than their male counterpart, and the reason why this is so cannot still be fully explained, as there are result which also shows that men are as well influenced by their parental marital background which affects their marital stability.
In-Law’s Involvement in marriages is a psychological trend that runs through so many families all over the world today, leading to serious damages in any dyadic relationship. Marriages are meant for two and not three; decisions in marriages are meant for two and not three, because most times, the presence or interference of a third person in marriage isoften powerful than even the two partners involve, as a partner might be influenced by the third party. According to Bowen (1978) and Friedman (1985), the involvement of a third party in a relationship is as a way of diffusing some of the pressure and tension between the couple and can have a negative effect on the couple’s relationship. One major problem most women find hard to cope with in marriage is, when the husband is not strong enough to confront her, scold her, and talk to her but rather reporting to his in-law without her consent. This problem affects most women psychologically, and therefore shapes their interaction to their husband and their marriage socially. At this point, most marriages are usually irredeemable.

1.2 Statement Of The Problem

Overtime in the history of marriage, women have been known to be the major problems of marital instability in every home, because society sees them as solely responsible for marital instability in the society. In some relationships, some women often claim they feel cheated, neglected, uncared for, maltreated or abused by their husbands, therefore they prefer being independent or getting a new life with a man who would show them affection, love, care, support; a man who would understand the way they think, show empathy, a man who can communicate effectively with them, a man who can meet their emotional and sexual needs and also, a man who can take good care of them and more importantly, they would love to create a life of their own without any interference from anyone. All these factors, put together affects women’s decision and attitude in marriage, and also shapes their thoughts which and makes them either submissive or responsive in marriage or vice-versa.

In essence, psychosocial factors influencing marital instability arises from the way women observe situations in marriages in respect to their feelings, thoughts, belief, culture and personality. Now, when there’s a conflict or misunderstanding between a woman’s feelings, thoughts, belief, culture, personality and her spouse, she tend to create behaviours, attitudes and certain responses which then shapes her social behaviour towards her spouse, and as a result of this, terms like marital disengagement, marital dissolution, marital instability, divorce come to being.
Communication in every relationship is very essential to the partners involved, as a breakdown in the communication processor pattern between two spouses could result to deep crises between both partners. Studies have revealed that one of the top five issues generating conflict in marriage is communication (Ekot and Usoro, 2006; Anyakoha and James, 2004). The level of spousal communication between couple often determines the success and failure of that marriage. Tanner (1990) in Santrock (2002) observed that lack of communication was high on women’s reasons for divorce whereas for men it was insignificant. This is to say that certain life situation between a woman and her husband influences the rate of spousal communication between them. This ‘situations could either be positive or negative, but whichever way it is, a woman’s communication with her spouse could either be psychological or social.

Due to economic hardship from complex economies/societies, spousal’s attachment seems to be declining on a daily basis. Most women complain of their spouse being unresponsive to some of their basic needs, not given them equal right to decision making and other important areas that has to do with both partners. Some of the presumed causes of these factors include; stress, giving more time to work over relationship, sexual dysfunction amongst others, and the effects of these on women includes; change in attitude and behaviour, engaging in more social activities and finally holding onto certain marital issues which could further lead to the disintegration of the marriage. It is of great importance to first of all understand that the attachment pattern of any individual originates from the type of attachment pattern that has been adopted in the early stages of childhood, that is, between a child and a primary care giver (parents). These early parental care experiences then gives rise to an internal working model of oneself and others, which form a basis for generating expectations about future relationships and provide a context for interpreting what happens in those relationships (Bowlby, 1973). Having discussed the types of attachment pattern in the introduction, the two sub categories of attachment pattern in women that can give rise to marital instability, are the avoidant attachment pattern and the ambivalent attachment pattern. Women within these attachment pattern often possess ‘I don’t care’ attitudes; feelings of what other people are of emotionally concerned about, is usually of no importance to women under these categories. Thus, this is to say that early attachment have a profound effect on people’s relationships throughout their entire lives.

Available for identifying the causes of this situation in their attempt to proffer solutions. Otuji, 2000 and Ode 2001 feel that marriages, especially among the literate class, have been under serious threat of disintegration. This situation is said to be caused partly by age at marriage, childlessness or barrenness and extended family interference. This situation has serious implications for the stability of the family with consequences on the children’s personality, growth and adjustments. Marital instability affects the society, going by the rate of divorce and the direct impact on the children, who, in most cases, grow to be social misfits and a nuisance. This situation appears to be nation-wide, as studies by Agim (1997) Obe (1997) and Carew (1995) of couples in Begiaka area of Cross River State, in IgaOkpaya districts of Benue state and University of Maduguri and of Borno State respectively confirm. These studies conclude that educated couples, despite their education, still have discrepancies in their views on issues that are conflict-prone. The effects (social, economic, political, personal and cultural) of this situation have remained worrisome to scholars and planners as well (Landis 1977, Nwobi, 1995 and Ume 2000). The end result of any marital instability is a breakdown of the union or divorce, home desertion, juvenile delinquency, truancy, school drop outs, lukewarm attitude to study, indiscipline, etc (Igbo 1997, Nwobi 1997, Igbo 2000,).Problems that could have been handled succinctly and cooperatively by couples are often allowed to degenerate to crisis levels, which, in turn, result in emotional dislocation that often leads to marital instability. This situation generates fear and impedes proper adjustments among couples (Philips, 1971; Manicini 1971 and Undie 1997).

It is at this backdrop that the study seeks to investigate the psycho-social factorsthat influence marital instability.

1.3 Objective Of The Study

This study will be carried out to determine the psychosocial factors that influence maritalinstability with the specific objectives stated below;

  1. To examine whether the level of spousal’s communication would influence marital instability.
  2. To know whether a history or background of family instability has an effect on marriage instability
  3. To know what kind of spousal attachment patterns in marriage influences marital instability.
  4. To examine if the rate of in-law’s involvement in marriage influences marital instability.
  5. Determine forms of extra marital behaviours exhibited by married men and women Abuja.
  6. Determine the relationship between extra marital behaviours and family instability among married people in Abuja.

1.4 Research Hypotheses

Hypotheses One
  • Ho: There is no relationship between extra marital behaviours and marital instability
  • Hi: There is a relationship between extra marital behaviours and marital instability
Hypotheses Two
  • Ho: There is no relationship between poor communication and marital stability
  • Hi: There is a relationship between poor communication and marital stability

1.5 Significance Of The Study

It is becoming a regular occurrence in the society today to see marriages coming to an abrupt end. Therefore, this study seeks to help an individual in understanding the various psychosocial factors affecting marital instability, which could eventually lead to dissolution or disintegration among couples. This project therefore aims at unveiling the psychosocial factors which poses a threat to marital instability and the society at large. This study will therefore be of great importance to different social welfare institutions, families, because conclusion gotten from this research, could serve as a road map to whatever goals that are been developed by these organization. Another great importance is that, social workers can be of great help in marital counseling agencies or institutions by counseling and cautioning parties involved on the signs and symbols that are likely to cause marital instability.

Practically, the result of the study will be beneficial to married people, religious leaders, researchers, curriculum planners, social workers and guidance counselors. The result of the study will help the married people to perform their marital duties fully, such as sex and healthy intimate spousal relationship. This is in other not to predispose their spouse to extra marital behaviours. It will give firsthand information to the religious leaders on the forms and causes of extra marital behaviours, with a view to give proper counseling to the spouses either before (premarital counseling) or during the marriage (marriage counseling). With the knowledge the curriculum planners would include issues that bother on family and procreation into subjects like Biology, Social Studies, civil education and sexuality education. Social workers and guidance counselors will also be equipped with knowledge on forms and causes of extra marital behaviour with a view to give objective and balanced marital counseling. With proper counseling, couples would appreciate the need to have proper communication among themselves, to be able to avert issues that would bring about instability in the home. The findings of the study will also add to the body of knowledge available to the researchers by exposing to them various forms of extra marital behaviours, factors responsible for extra marital behaviours and relationship between extra marital behaviours and family instability that may challenge or threaten the family stability.

1.6 Scope And Limitation Of The Study

This study is primary concerned with psycho-social factors influencing marital instability. This study/project work covers Garki Area of Abuja.The researcher encountered some constraints, which limited the scope of the study.

These constraints include but are not limited to the following

a) Availability Of Research Material:

The research material available to the researcher is insufficient, thereby limiting the study

b) Time:

The time frame allocated to the study does not enhance wider coverage as the researcher has to combine other academic activities and examinations with the study.

1.7 Definition Of Terms


A socially and religious approved union between a male and a female by which they are legally and morally entitled to sexual relationship, bear and rear children thereby, establishing a family of their own; It is the union of a man and a woman who makes a permanent and exclusive commitment to each other of the type that is naturally fulfilled by bearing and rearing children together, and renewed by acts that constitute the behavioural path process of production.


The quality or condition of being unstable. It can also be seen as an unusually and unnaturally large fluctuation that may lead to serious damage or failure; if allowed to continue beyond a certain limit.

Marital instability:

It is an unusual or unnatural large fluctuation that occurs in a marriage (between a man and a woman) that may therefore lead to serious damage or system failure in the family, if allowed to continue beyond a certain limit.


Termination or dissolution of a legal marriage. According to Dr. Dawn Taylor, it is what happens when people decide not to be married to each other anymore. A divorce legally ends a marriage and people are free to marry other people if they want to.


The word psychosocial is gotten from Social Psychology; it is a field that seeks to understand the nature and causes of individual’s behavior and thought in social situations. Social psychology is an attempt to understand and explain how the thought, feeling and behaviour of individuals is influenced by the actual, imagined or implied presence of others.

Attachment Pattern:

Is the bond that develops between a baby and its primary caregiver. It is characterized by the interaction patterns which develop in order to fulfill the infants’ needs and emotional development. This pattern therefore shapes future relationships.

1.8 Organization Of The Study

This research work is organized in five chapters, for easy understanding, as follows

  • Chapter one is concerned with the introduction, which consist of the (overview, of the study), historical background, statement of problem, objectives of the study, research hypotheses, significance of the study, scope and limitation of the study, definition of terms and historical background of the study.
  • Chapter two highlights the theoretical framework on which the study is based, thus the review of related literature.
  • Chapter three deals on the research design and methodology adopted in the study.
  • Chapter four concentrate on the data collection and analysis and presentation of finding.
  • Chapter five gives summary, conclusion, and recommendations made of the study

Chapter Five

Summary, Conclusion And Recommendation

5.1 Introduction

It is important to ascertain that the objective of this study was to ascertain a critical analysis of psycho-social factors influencing marital instability.

In the preceding chapter, the relevant data collected for this study were presented, critically analyzed and appropriate interpretation given. In this chapter, certain recommendations are made, which in the opinion of the researcher will be of benefit in addressing the challenges of Marital instability in the society.

5.2 Summary

This study aimed at having a critical analysis of psycho-social factors influencing marital instability. Six objectives were raised to guide the study. These objectives include:

  1. To examine whether the level of spousal’s communication would influence marital instability.
  2. To know whether a history or background of family instability has an effect on marriage instability
  3. To know what kind of spousal attachment patterns in marriage influences marital instability.
  4. To examine if the rate of in-law’s involvement in marriage influences marital instability.
  5. Determine forms of extra marital behaviours exhibited by married men and women Abuja.
  6. Determine the relationship between extra marital behaviours and family instability among married people in Abuja.

5.3 Conclusion

Based on the above findings pertaining to the objectives of the study the following conclusions are drawn.
Evidence from studies in marital stability suggest that marriage institution is threatened not only in Nigeria but the world over (Ebigbo, 2002), but the most disturbing threat to marriage stability includes but not limited to high rate of divorce, increase number of single parents, positive response to couples cohabitation and same sex marriage (Ogunsami, 2005, Onwuasonya, 2005, Modo, 2009). These notwithstanding, marriage has so many positive effects on the life of individuals such as living healthier lifestyle in terms of eating, exercise and avoiding harmful behaviors; having satisfying sexual relationship, and having more wealth and economic assets (Waite and Galagher, 2000; Seltzer, 2000; Kim and Mckenry, 2002, and Odebunmi, 2007). Several psychological factors fostering marital stability have been highlighted. It is believe that if the factors are strictly made use of there will be enhancement of marital stability.

5.4 Recommendation

Based on the fact that marital stability could be aided and enhanced by effective communication between spouses, intimacy, emotional bonding, commitment, affection, religious orientation, and job and sexual satisfactions among others, it is recommended that couples shouldendeavor to “cultivate the highlighted psychological factors” to ensure their marital stability.

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