Understanding Society Scientific Conference 2019 - , University of Essex

Precarity and relationship quality in the UK: long-term economic uncertainty, employment shocks and perceptions of future financial outlook

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Day:Tue 2 Jul
  • Niels Blom, University of Southampton

Prior studies have found that couples who currently experience economic hardship have on average more conflict and lower quality relationships (Conger, et al., 2010). Individuals are also less satisfied with their relationship when they expect a decline in income or are insecure about their job continuation (Blom et al., 2019; Cheng et al., 2014). However, others hypothesize that the quality of relationship recuperates after the initial shock of unemployment (Luhmann et al., 2012), and short-term unemployment may not be as detrimental as long-term employment instability. Here, we explore the association between economic hardship and relationship quality, investigating not only current financial situation, but also past employment experiences and expected future economic conditions. Using Understanding Society (2009-2017), we compare the effects of long-term unemployment, current economic shocks, and perceptions of future economic hardship on the quality of the partner relationship. Random and fixed-effect analyses allow us to pinpoint whether initial job loss or cumulative disadvantage has a greater impact on relationship quality. We also investigate different dimensions of relationship quality (including dyadic satisfaction, dyadic cohesion, and relationship happiness), as well as gender differences. Preliminary analyses show that current and future perceptions of economic hardship are negatively associated with the quality of the partner relationship; however, the results for long-term economic conditions are more complex. The results differ between men and women, and between the dimensions of relationship quality. Overall, this study will show to what extent economic strain has a greater impact on relationship quality in the short or long-term.