Prenuptial agreements are defined as written contracts between two people about to marry, deciding how future financial decisions and treatment of any potential children will be made in the event of relationship dissolution. Insecure attachments have been widely noted to influence the satisfaction and length of relationships due to avoidant and anxious individuals discomfort with closeness or fear of abandonment. The present study considers the influence attachment may have on willingness to sign a prenuptial agreement and whether this relationship extends to gender differences. A survey assessing the conditions under which a prenuptial agreement would be ideal and attachment dimensions was administered to 178 undergraduates. It was found men with attachment avoidance and anxiety were more willing to sign a prenuptial agreement, however the likelihood of signing was reduced when men were in a relationship.
Keywords: prenuptial agreements, marriage, divorce, anxious, avoidant attachments
Sustainable Development Goals: Good Health and Wellbeing (3), Gender Equality (5), Reduced Inequalities (10)
Introduction and Literature Review
Marriage is rarely heard of without romantic love in Western societies. Love seems to be recognised as the most important protective quality in times of loss. Still, in some cultures this exclusive commitment (Blankenhorn, 2007) can occur for economic or social reasons. It could be because "love is nothing more than a favourable exchange between two people who benefit from their value in the personality market" (Fromm, 1955). Keeping this in mind; it seems odd to suggest legal prenuptial agreements are more common in the industrial West, than in collectivist cultures commonly exchanging dowries under the law of religion.
A prenuptial agreement is described as providing "the protection an individual or the family may want against a possible divorce" (Mendoza & Krone, 1997). Examples of these assets include the custody of children, property, cars and how future living and leisure expenses may be distributed. Forty–two per cent of marriages end in divorce in England and Wales (Office for National Statistics; ONS, 2014) and are disproportionately more costly to women (The Chartered Insurance Institute, n.d.).
Divorce is a major contributing factor to what has been called the 'feminization of poverty'. Divorced mothers are often left on their own to support themselves and their children on a typically reduced standard of living (Kurz, 1995). Contemporary marriages seem to still have power imbalances due to the double shift placed on women (Hochschild, 1989). Women seem to contribute a much larger proportion of child support in terms of both emotional and financial provision, due tobeing on lone salaries and what can be negotiated from ex–husbands. Ehrenreich (1983) argues the increased acceptance of divorce left men free to leave behind the liabilities of marriage and child rearing with little repercussions. Men seem much more able to accommodate for new wives and consequent children at the expense of wives and children from previous marriages. Though both parents hold the experience of a first failed marriage, men and women usually occur differently on occupational trajectories predicting a significant difference in life after divorce (Sweeney, 1997). Mothers usually experience a 'motherhood pay penalty' (TUC and IPPR, 2016) where the pay of women starts to mature slower after her first child than women without children. This highlights an understanding as to why some women may opt for a prenuptial agreement to protect them from the financial discrimination they may face at their workplace. Keeping this in mind, fathers seem more able to 'move on' financially because apart from a reduced likelihood of a liveable wage, divorce at a time when children are young seems to reduce the penchant for remarriage in women (Bumpass, Sweet & Martin, 1990). Ninety per cent of the time young children live with mothers following divorce (Fagan & Churchill, 2012), straining relationships between children and fathers due to a decline in contact and closeness, increasing, as children get older. This emotional detachment from responsibilities notes how fathers seem to be able to 'start over' with new wives and consequent children, calling for a need for a prenuptial agreement by women burdened with a magnitude of financial and emotional responsibility.
Nonetheless, the lack of prenuptial agreements being implemented in actuality may be attributed to the shift in divorce laws occurring in the 1970s where in an attempt to decrease marriage exit costs courts adopted a 'no fault or unilateral' divorce standpoint (Stevenson, 2007). Inadvertently however, this reduced the value of marriage as a commitment, on the whole, giving rise to individualism where one's own needs can take precedence over the good of the family (Kurz, 1995). This seems to have translated to men, however for women being married still remains very much a part of a women's identity both socially (Symoens, Colman & Bracke, n.d.; Rahav & Baum, 2002) and economically (Colletta, 1983). Bearing this in mind, divorce still remains to be a complex, ambiguous and often costly process (Lundberg, Pollak & Stearns, 2016) leaving a great majority of divorced, single mothers in a highly dependent and vulnerable position.
Prenuptial agreements may be a valuable investment in compensating primary homemakers, often the woman, responsible for maintaining the traditional family (Ertman, 1998). It would appear a prenuptial agreement allows the planning of economic futures with caution and independence (Ludvigsen, 2011). Marriages that seem to be based now on much less secure foundations are fulfilled practically through the use of a prenuptial agreement, in contrast to both emotionally and practically as they previously were by partners (Sassler, 2010). Nevertheless, legal practitioners estimate them to only be signed 5–10 per cent of the time in the U.S (Mahar, 2003). Some studies have indicated proposing a prenuptial agreement signals uncertainty about the longevity of the union (ibid). In a three–date experimental model used to pose as a marriage, two partners interacted to determine the partition of a single–family asset they both individually enhanced over this marriage upon divorce. It was concluded introducing the possibility of divorce made partners more apprehensive of investing in the marriage (Rainer, 2006). Additionally, some couples may perceive themselves to be statistical anomalies of divorce. A study of 300 would–be married couples that took a survey regarding their perceptions of how the law currently distributes custody and alimony between partners discovered an underestimated discrepancy between the knowledge of divorce rates and accurate projections about their own future (Baker & Emery, 1993). When the same survey was given to 92 students who had recently completed a course in family law, they expressed significantly more accurate overall perceptions of divorce statues. These idealistic expectations and undue optimism lend support to the absence of a legal contract, inadvertently in some cases leading to a significant decline in the standard of living for women after divorce. The importance of love is further emphasised by American courts that largely refuse enforcement because it undermines marital stability. The insistence of individual security challenges American ideals of romance being the only legitimate reason for marriage (Marston, 1997). This justifies, only 1 per cent of American couples going through with a prenuptial agreement despite 9 per cent claiming they would not get married without it (Poliacoff, 2011).
Using love as a basis for marriage and wanting to keep up appearances of certainty in front of partners may not be the sole reasons behind willingness to sign a prenuptial agreement. It could be due to individual apprehension driven by attachment of how reliable the love of a partner is.
Attachment is defined as a deep and enduring, emotional bond that connects one person to another (Bowlby, 1969), reflecting the subjective quality of life (World Health Organization, 1999) experienced as a child with a primary caregiver. Over the years, researchers have produced various forms of measurements to identify attachments. Collins' (1996) Revised Adult Attachment Scale (AAS–R) utilises a dimensional approach to distinguish those with attachment anxiety from avoidance. Participants are required to rate 18 statements reflecting one of three subscales: Close, Depend, and Anxiety. The close and depend subscales indicate an individual being comfortable with closeness and intimacy respectively. The anxiety subscale reflects worry about being rejected or unloved. The movement from categorical to dimensional measurements has acknowledged the importance of the core structures that are thought to underlie differences in attachment styles. In place of classifying individuals into discrete categories, allowing participants to agree with only one of three statements (Love Quiz; Hazan & Shaver, 1987) ultimately disregarding meaningful information on individual differences. The dimensional approach mentors principles, which determine how the attachment system manifests itself in adult relationships (Adamczyk & Bookwala, 2013). The integration of past attachment experiences can pose to be a great challenge for individuals with insecure attachments in developing relationships (Crowell, Treboux & Waters 2002). Consequently, the terms avoidance and anxious–ambivalence have been coined to depict support seeking over worries of separation or rejection.
Differences in attachments appear to be grounded in cognitive models of self and others (Collins & Read, 1994). These cognitive models are inferred to be part of a broader system of cognitive and motivational processes guiding the assessment of social situations, whilst helping individuals to maintain a coherent worldview and self–image (Bartholomew, 1990). Attachment avoidance has come to be known as the model of others (Griffin & Bartholomew, 1994). This is when an unfavourable perception of others fuels the prediction of future events. Taking this into account, individuals of a high level of attachment avoidance have been shown to downplay vulnerabilities and emotional need to their partner, overall denying a state of need (Howe, 2011). This incapacity to depend on others is due to an underlying expectation and worry that making demands eventually leads to rejection. It would seem avoidant individuals might be likely to favour prenuptial agreements to prevent an equitable dependency of material possessions and sentimental emotions between themselves and partners (Feeney & Collins, 2001). This discomfort with closeness is facilitated by low–quality communication with partners; therefore it could be hypothesised partners of avoidant individuals may demand prenuptial agreements due to their failure to provide assurance in matters related to abandonment. When issues do arise in the relationship, those of high avoidance are more likely to shut down conversations without reason due to the perception, interactions with others is non–rewarding (Guerrero, 1996). Prenuptial agreements thus may seem like an obvious choice for those with no great faith in true love and romance and for those who frequently experience briefer relationships (Howe, 2011). The proposition of such an agreement may signalise control for avoidant individuals if deception after a commitment is made, to be able to terminate the relationship with little or no discussion (McCornack & Levine, 1990).
Another form of insecure attachment is attachment anxiety. Individuals high in attachment anxiety reflect a model of others, where the persistent pursuit of others interest, love and approval is to obtain intimacy from one whose love cannot be taken for granted (Simpson, 1990). They tend to be emotionally vulnerable leading to an overly dependent nature, which in some circumstances can force involvement of a significant other (Holmes & Johnson, 2009). Keeping this in mind it seems conceivable anxious individuals may be more willing to sign a prenuptial agreement to prepare themselves for the dissolution of relationships, especially when they tend to be highly dependent on partners. An anxious individual could also specify conditions of a prenuptial agreement to inhibit leaving the relationship easily. Moreover, anxious individuals may prefer not to get a prenuptial agreement to minimise their level of anxiety of thoughts of their partner leaving the relationship (Feeney & Noller, 1990). Anxious individuals own intimacy goals are tied to their feelings for their partners. Therefore, a prenuptial agreement may be motivated by pursuing intimacy–related needs, in turn making them value their partner more when fulfilled (Pietromonaco & Beck, 2012). The communication issues poignant in insecure attachments may promote this. Good communication is a pillar of successful, happy relationships in Western cultures (Fletcher, 2002). Whilst regular and open expression of negative thoughts and feelings is considered to be vital, constant reminders of the anxieties felt by the insecurely attached may lead to poor evaluations of the relationship by the partner. For example, in Collins and Read's (1990) survey study of 71 dating couples who were assessed on attachment dimensions, satisfaction in relationship and level of communication, it was found women's fear of abandonment was the strongest predictor of lower satisfaction and increased conflict in men (p.659). Men with anxious partners perceived more communication problems. This gives light to the understanding as to why men may prefer a prenuptial agreement considering previous relationship experience.
Other factors that may influence willingness
Attachment is hardly a permanent foundation in adult relationships; around 30 per cent of attachments are subject to change (Baldwin & Fehr, 1995). Anxious or avoidant bases can be transformed into secure in the face of changing relationship experiences (Feeney, Noller & Roberts, 2000). Consequently, attachment may govern other factors, thereby influencing willingness to sign a prenuptial agreement. For example, how much each partner earns or how individuals would idealistically share the costs of living and leisure. Moreover, since the notion of love varies by culture, the same can be spoken about willingness to sign a prenuptial agreement. Binding a marriage under the law of religion seems to commonly exist in collectivist societies where Shari'a law drives customs such as dahej (dowry) and mehr (payment to the bride from groom securing the relationship) (Ambrus, Field & Torero, 2010). These traditions vaguely resemble the conditions of a prenuptial agreement, where collectivist cultures use dowries as a form of relational preservation, the payment only being returned in the event of the husband's death. Formal prenuptial agreements may not be used or needed thus reinforcing gender roles, where women have little control over the dissolution of a relationship, without it leading to heavy costs and social consequences (You & Malley–Morrison, 2000). These gender roles may be more evident in those with attachment anxiety or avoidance from collectivist cultures.
Contribution to Sustainability
This research is important as it provides insight into relationships prior and post legal commitment in relation to marriage bound by prenuptial agreements. The research has potential to inform our knowledge of the longevity of contemporary marriage through evaluating the influence attachment styles may have. Subsequently, this can educate individuals to the use of prenuptial agreements as well as inspire diverse types of interpersonal psychological interventions aiming to reduce marital apathy and divorce rates.
Moreover, this research has potential to contribute to the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform, 2015): Good Health and Wellbeing (3), Gender Equality (5) and Reduced Inequalities (10). The study will investigate the effect insecure attachment styles have on material and sentimental possessions shared in relationships and how this may ultimately influence an individual's willingness to procure a prenuptial agreement. This research has potential to influence the content and importance of interpersonal interventions offered to couples contemplating prenuptial agreements. This would be useful for individuals in relationships to decide with total control whether they would benefit from one. These consultations would benefit individual mental health and wellbeing as therapists would support the further development of relationships through effective communication. Ultimately, determining the longevity of the marital relationship.
This research may also shine light on the unconscious gender inequalities or biases still associated towards women for example, not valuing domestic contributions as important as financial. In regards to complete unanimity, having these agreements set out after consulting with marital therapists would be useful for the partner not contributing as much financially to have legal recognition of their other efforts, aiding individuals to be aware of the benefits and possible future financial ramifications of having a prenuptial agreement.
This research is necessary for sustainable empowerment of women's social development (United Nations, 2014). This research opens a gateway to issues not overcome even in developed nations, such as the gender pay–gap (Ñopo, Daza & Ramos, 2011). Advancing gender equality and subsequently reducing inequalities based on sex, income and opportunity is vital for women's sense of accomplishment and self–confidence they have individually and in conjunction with partners. Keeping this in mind and considering previous research, it can be hypothesised the linear combination of attachment anxiety and attachment avoidance predict willingness to sign a prenuptial agreement. The strength of this relationship will vary with gender.
Participants. Participants were a convenience sample of 3 "Asian British" undergraduate students (2 male, 1 female) from the University of Southampton. Two out of three participants were in a relationship.
Measures. The author acted as a facilitator asking six open–ended questions, as shown below, to generate ideas of participants understanding and attitudes towards prenuptial agreements.
- What do you understand about the term 'prenuptial agreement'?
- What are your general attitudes towards a prenuptial agreement?
- How likely do you think it is that those who had secure childhood relationships with parents will get a prenuptial agreement?
- Are prenuptial agreements influenced by culture?
- At what salary per annum would you get a prenuptial agreement?
- Is marriage becoming a business transaction?
Procedure. Participants undertook the focus group in their own home. The opening instructions were given by the facilitator, verbally described the purpose of the focus group. Once participants were familiarised with the instructions, any remaining questions they had were answered. The facilitator began the focus group by asking the first question and letting participants respond. When the facilitator felt the participants came to a natural pause at the end of a question, the next question was asked.
Results. The students who took part in the focus group shared similar views in what is appropriate to be placed on a prenuptial agreement, examples included: children, property, career earnings, gold, and cars. The general attitude was to protect what you have earned independently. Furthermore, both genders agreed prenuptial agreements were a culturally bound concept, occurring mainly in the industrial West. The demographic of the focus group was Asian–British, so all participants touched upon Asian cultures frowning on the idea of agreeing beforehand how assets and future earnings would be distributed. They all agreed if families were to be involved, it is unlikely for a prenuptial agreement to take place, stressing the importance of taking into consideration the views of those close to them. Although, there was a sense of uniform compliance where the circumstances in which they met their partner mattered for example, before or after success and whether it was an arranged or love marriage. Differences between genders occurred, however, in the value of a prenuptial agreement and its relation to marriage. Males expressed the importance of being practical and realistic about the future, seeing prenuptial agreements as insurance of investing time, effort and assets in a relationship. They further conveyed acceptance that feelings towards partners can change. The female on the other hand, emphasised marriage to be about emotion. Prenuptial agreements were used as a safety net to be able to back out whenever one partner felt like it, without conflict resolution inadvertently putting an expiry date on marriage. The questions used were open–ended in a semi–structured format to encourage deep and insightful exchanges.
The pilot was administered to test the feasibility of a study on prenuptial agreements in a student population. The focus group setting was used so the author could establish the key issues needed to be address in the later administered large–scale questionnaire study (van Teijlingen & Hundley, 2001). To further explore the conclusions drawn in the pilot study the author would benefit from centring survey questions on the importance individuals place on different material possessions. This would include what individuals consider as duties carried out by partners individually or equally. Lastly, the weight the opinion of close others has on an individual's significant life choices for example, getting a prenuptial agreement and it's interaction with gender and culture would need to be subject to further scrutiny.
Final methodological approach
Participants. Participants were an online volunteer sample of 178 undergraduate psychology students (113 female, 22 male, 43 unknown) from the University of Southampton who were allocated 4 course credits for participation. Participants were required to be over the age of 18 and unmarried. 45.8% of the sample reported being in a romantic relationship (MDURATION = 18.82 months, range from 0–80 months). The sample was primarily Caucasian (68.2% "white British", 14% "any other white background").
Design. Variables were perceived item likelihood, conditions of a prenuptial agreement, attachment dimensions, cultural dimensions, relationship status, sexual orientation and gender. They were measured using participant scoring on the questionnaire.
Measures. (see Table 1).
Perceived item willingness. The author devised a scale according to the results of the pilot study to assess an individual's willingness to place items on a prenuptial agreement (Figure 1). The items were of both material and sentimental capacity, however due to low internal reliability, the items were not separated. Participants were required to rate each individual item from one (definitely not) to five (definitely). M of 3.26 indicates participants were indifferent in choices between items.
Conditions of a prenuptial agreement. These questions were constructed using 'Prenuptial Agreement Questionnaire' (Millender and Moses, 2016) (see Appendix B, ii). The M for all 3 conditions indicated participants preferred to get a prenuptial agreement at £60,000–£70,000, split costings between partners and were indifferent in willingness to sign a prenuptial agreement.
Attachment dimensions. The Revised Adult Attachment Scale (AAS–R; Collins, 1996) assessed attachment dimensions. Participants are asked to rate each item from one (not at all characteristic of me) to five (very characteristic of me).
Cultural dimensions. The author devised a scale to assess cultural dimensions. Ten out of nineteen items were irrelevant to results due to low Cronbach's alpha, therefore it will not be further described or analysed. Participants were asked to rate each item from one (strongly disagree) to five (strongly agree).
Demographics. A brief demographics questionnaire administered at the end of the survey gathered information on gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation and relationship status (and length, if applicable). Subsequently, participants were asked whether they took the questionnaire seriously and whether they would like a follow–up email of the study's findings.
Data Analysis. The data was subject to various analytical procedures. At the outset regression analysis was conducted in order to test the combined effect of variables retained after the preliminary analysis. In particular the author tested for whether the relationship between salary and perceived item willingness was enhanced by attachment styles. Regression analysis was most suited as the author wanted to identify the form of relationship between the criterion variable: perceived item willingness and multiple predictor variables such as attachment, gender and culture. Subsequently illustrating what size difference in perceived item willingness is associated with a change in either of the predictors. Following on, the author identifies descriptive statistics and correlational relationships between all variables. Bivariate correlations were used to assess the degree of a relationship present for example, the direction and strength of association between continuous variables.
Number of items
Number of items removed
Table 1. Measures. All scales had respectable Cronbach's alpha, indicating a high internal reliability.
Note. N=178. Before missing values were replaced with M values.
Preliminary data analysis. Preliminary screening of the data eliminated 25 participants from the sample because they took less than 5 minutes to complete the survey. Two out of five subscales in the survey had items removed from the results due to low Cronbach's alpha. These included where the couple would reside after marriage (conditions of a prenuptial agreement) and 10 out of 19 items in cultural dimensions. Cultural dimensions were split into 3 dimensions guided by others, follow others, and guided by self. Attachment was coded into 2 subscales avoidance and anxiety, as these styles were most relevant to the rationale of this study. Missing values were replaced with M values, where appropriate.
After checking for assumptions, it was found individual variables except for costings were normally distributed and no evidence of non–linear relationships between variables. Reverse score transformations were carried out to correct for normality on costings, however, it was found ineffective thus subsequent analysis were conducted on raw data.
Multiple regressions. After partialling out control variables, perceived item willingness was regressed on avoidance and anxiety. Checks of the residuals indicated all variables were normally distributed and homoscedastic. Checks for multivariate outliers using Cook's distance and centred leverage statistics indicated that there were no unduly influential cases. The resulting regression model is shown in Tables 2 and 3.
As can be seen in Table 2, avoidance and anxiety make statistically significant independent contributions to the prediction of willingness to sign a prenuptial agreement in men, together accounting for 50% of the variance in perceived item willingness scores. Further analysis indicated individual control variables had no significant effects. On the other hand, as can be seen in Table 3, avoidance and anxiety did not yield statistically significant contributions towards the prediction of willingness to sign a prenuptial agreement in women. Additionally, control variables did not contribute significantly to the prediction in willingness. These findings indicate that, regardless of prior monetary assets, individual culture and preference to split costings, attachment avoidance and anxiety does have an influence on willingness to sign a prenuptial agreement, however only in men.
Table 2. Regression of perceived item willingness on salary, culture, attachment, likelihood, costings, sexual orientation and relationship status for Males.
R2=0.50, F(8,13)=1.64, ***p<0.05, **p<0.01
Table 3. Regression of perceived item willingness on salary, culture, attachment, likelihood, costings and relationship status for Females.
R2=0.05, F(8, 103)=0.64
Descriptive statistics and correlations. Table 4 and 5 shows the means and standard deviations for each variable, along with their inter–correlations. The tables indicate males were more inclined to use a prenuptial agreement at £60,000–£70,000, whereas females preferred a prenuptial agreement at £40,000–£50,000 per annum. In terms of the decision to split costings of living and leisure, men favoured paying by themselves for their partners and children, whilst women endorsed splitting everything equally. With respect to the variable: perceived item willingness all participants were more willing to place these items on a prenuptial agreement, should the situation arise. The bivariate correlations indicated a higher likelihood of getting a prenuptial agreement is associated with higher salaries for both males and females, but it is associated with a lower likelihood when men were in a relationship. Nonetheless, differences existed where a positive relationship existed between perceived item willingness and anxiety in males.
These relationships demonstrate that salary was a strong indicator of willingness to sign a prenuptial agreement. Being in a relationship also determined feelings towards individual items and overall likelihood of getting a prenuptial agreement in men.
Table 4. Means, Standard Deviations, and Correlations for all Variables for Males
Note. N=22, **p<0.05, ***p<.000 (2 tailed).
Table 5. Means, Standard Deviations, and Correlations for all Variables for Females
Note. N=113, **p<0.05,***p<0.000 (2 tailed).
With respect to the hypothesis, it was found attachment anxiety and avoidance somewhat contributes to willingness in signing a prenuptial agreement in men. It should be noted, even though attachment theory is a widely researched field before the present study there has been no other research implicating a relationship between attachment and willingness to sign a prenuptial agreement. Hence, it can be speculated prenuptial agreements may be the result of deactivating and hyper–activating strategies used by individuals of avoidance and anxiety respectively (Collins, 1996; Mikulincer & Shaver, 2007). Avoidant individuals need for self–reliance may suggest prenuptial agreements will be used to ensure autonomy and control over the relationship. Alternatively, anxious individuals known to overemphasise their helplessness and vulnerability may use a prenuptial agreement as an intense bid for attention until a satisfying sense of attachment is achieved. It can be suspected if the agreement was tailored to individual circumstance, for example paying for future children's education, it can prevent partners of anxious attachments leaving the marriage without providing financial support and equitable custody of children. This legal coercion may reflect individuals of anxious attachments reluctance to give up on romantic relationships, where partners wishing to leave ultimately choose to work through marital difficulties (Howe, 2011).
Extending the findings to gender differences, a study conducted by van Ijzendoorn and Bakermans–Kranenburg (2010) discovered male adoption of avoidant strategies such as uncommitted mating and low parental investment maximises personal fitness in a threatening environment, for example, the dissolution of a relationship. The use of a prenuptial agreement largely by males could be fuelled by the uncertainty of paternity, lowering the benefits of investing in one's probable offspring (Giudice, 2009). The significance of avoidant attachment is relevant to young males, as in the current studies, who readily adopt these avoidant strategies in situations of impulsivity and risk–taking to defend their social status. It may also explain why relationships with avoidant partners last for briefer periods, hence the need for a prenuptial agreement. An unsurprising finding was the reduced willingness to sign a prenuptial agreement when men were in a relationship. This can be attributed to a change in attachment or ability to trust with regards to face value in bettering relationship experiences (Feeney et al. 2000). These suggestions also give light to why a significant relationship was not found between attachment and willingness to sign in women, who cannot adopt such extreme forms of low investment when the costs of raising a child are mainly borne by the mother (Bjorklund & Shackleford, 1999).
It is notable, however, the author's findings were not completely consistent with the hypothesis where salary and splitting of costs were concerned. These factors can be attributed to influencing willingness alongside attachment. The increased participation of married women in the paid labour force has led to expectations for greater relationship equality (Bongaarts, 2004). Although, this increased commitment to work outside the home has not been matched by husband's commitment inside the home (Steil, 2000). Stam, Verbakel & de Graaf (2013) indicated women tend to occupy more part–time work than men in order to combine paid work and family responsibilities. It seems the disparity between costing preferences may reflect role specialization where responsibilities are assigned on the basis of gender. Men usually have an obligation as a provider, entitling them to put career first freeing them from a number of responsibilities at home (p.130). This may explain why agreeing upfront to finance the living of all members of the family initiates a detachment from domesticity. It can be speculated the purpose behind solidifying the role of the working woman by splitting costs equally in a prenuptial agreement emphasises career being an important element in personal development and contentment with life (Pistole, 2003), as well as wanting to feel valued by husbands – an important determinant of marital satisfaction (Araújo, 2005; Garcia & Tassara, 2003). This can be extended to why women would rather sign at a lower salary per annum as familial responsibilities may prevent them from furthering themselves in career and earning significantly greater, unlike the opportunities available for men.
The gender pay gap may also fuel the disparity between roles men and women frequently obtain. Gender wage or pay gap is attributed to be the difference in average earnings between men and women (Blau & Kahn, 2006), where the difference is usually more favourable to the former. The ONS reported the pay gap to be just under 10 per cent in April 2016 (Office for National Statistics, 2016). It has been suggested within marital relationships traditional gender roles are more readily played out even when women procure the role of primary breadwinner. Deutsch, Roksa and Meeske (2003) indicated couples might use tactics to preserve the sanctity of power being held by the husband, such as downplaying or trivializing the women's earnings by assigning their income for non–essentials for example, mortgage payments when in reality these extras are actually essential. Other strategies include the mother still being the central parent despite an extended role in her career. Career does not usually take superiority over their families, even though some men who out–earn women often label their career as a more valued benefit (Steil, 1997). As aforementioned, the use of a prenuptial agreement from women may serve as a way of moving past traditional ideas of distribution of domestic and monetary duties to being matrimonially valued in their contribution to the household, as a man previously would be.
In spite of this, the lack of a significant relationship between considering the conditions under which a prenuptial agreement would be signed and actually being willing to sign one suggests the importance of loyalty women portray when staying in a relationship, even when problems are unresolved (Rusbult, 1987). It is apparent the relationship between marriage, attachment, well–being and resources is circumstantially multidimensional.
Future Directions and Limitations
The findings from this study can be used to promote future research into marital therapist based interventions aiming to reduce marital distress (Fowers, 1998), ultimately influencing lasting individual health and wellbeing. These interventions may be able to help dismissing partners communicate more thoughtfully and with greater sensitivity (Johnson, 2004). Insecure individuals are usually attracted to each other, often–forgoing negotiation and problem–solving techniques. The increased intimacy and connectedness between partners can allow a common ground to be achieved where a prenuptial agreement is tailored specifically to a couple's situation considering all possible reasons for dissolution (Emery & Emery, 2014). Ultimately preventing partners with less bargaining power signing under duress without careful deliberation (Atwood & Bix, 2012). Considering all possible reasons of conflict can prevent conversations becoming deep–seated and volatile, which often impact any children involved (Sillars & Weisberg, 1987).
Nonetheless, this study will contribute to the recognition of gender equality. The research has recognised male–mating patterns, in particular the level of indifference to commitment they can often take. As well as the hindrance social roles women obtain put them in when making decisions relating to power and use of family resources. These factors combined with the gender pay gap places women at a disadvantaged position when making prenuptial agreement negotiations. The author thereby highlights the importance of closer countrywide governmental inspections of differences in income and opportunity. Tackling inequalities in income and opportunity are the first steps in reducing implicit associations women have with domesticated duties and the leverage men have socially. It is important for the empowerment of women these differences are acknowledged and subsequently tackled to prevent the immobility of social progress.
This study is not without limitations. Like much relationship research, there is a heavy reliance on self–report questionnaires to determine qualities of a long–lasting marriage (Fletcher, 2002). The inherent problem of this is the ability for participants to display social desirability bias. For example, women may be more inclined to state they would split costs equally in an attempt to conform to the role of the modern woman who may put career first, equally as men are assumed to do so. The same applies for funding for children and debt from previous marriages since the assumption behind marriage is to support partners "for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health." (The Church of England, 2016). In terms of participants, it consisted of only Psychology undergraduates who may be familiar with the concept of The Revised Attachment Scale having a deeper understanding of what each statement meant, thereby inclined to give a desirable answer. Using university students restricts being able to generalise to a wider population. Firstly, because sex differences are found to be stronger in young adulthood– the age range of a typical university student, declining markedly in middle age (Giudice, 2009). Second, it is assumed students have the idea they will eventually obtain a high–income job as a result of going to university, therefore many may have been inclined to be willing to sign at a significantly high salary. Third, the conclusions drawn for men are based on a sample of 22 known male participants. Therefore, the sample fails to be representative of the population, so cannot be generalised. Furthermore, the criterion to take part in the survey at a single point in their life was to be over 18 and unmarried. Many participants may not have considered the enormity of child–care and sharing expenses, especially since the expectations of lifestyle have changed so that young people are delaying marriage and parenthood in favour of careers (Harris & Westermann, 2015). Alternatively, the research failed to ask whether the participant had any children, which may have influenced responses. If this study were to be conducted again, it would be advised to use both married and unmarried participants in a longitudinal study to acquire knowledge as to whether attitudes changed after vows and children. The wide range of types of relationships such as polyandrous or polygamous should have also been explored. The use of close–ended questions due to time constraints prevented the research to gain a deeper understanding of why participants preferred placing items on a prenuptial agreement, but decided against the overall idea of getting a prenuptial agreement.
As career becomes the forefront of personal contentment alongside attachment determining the types of relationships one attracts, it begs the debate whether the use of an agreement ironing out all the possible ways in which a marriage may break down is the key to solving conflicts? The research found negative or insufficiently formed childhood attachment experiences play a more concrete role in the increased willingness to sign a prenuptial agreement in men than women, particularly at a salary of over £60,000. Yet, this relationship may be entwined by the intricacies of societal stipulations such as changes in the division of labour and the gender pay–gap, which disallows females to hold significant economic power in both their workplace and household. It seems the sustainability of a marital union is bound by an increased awareness and acceptance for the need of personal contentment. Alternatively, we may also be gradually moving marriage away from being a long–lasting bond to a common transaction between two people who temporarily benefit from their value in the personality market.
Declaration of Ethics
This research proceeded with full ethical approval from the University of Southampton Ethics Committee. All participants were informed prior to partaking in the study its aims, rationale and contribution to Psychology as a science. For more information please refer to University of Southampton ethical application 17652.
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