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Study Finds Couples on Government Assistance Experience Marital Woes

An often-quoted hip hop song might have claimed "more money, more problems." But in the world of divorce, it's the lack of money that seems to cause the most problems. So divorce attorneys in Pasadena weren't surprised last week when a new study showed the correlation between couples on government financial assistance and divorce.

Financially-strapped couples that receive government assistance, such as Medicaid or food stamps, are significantly less satisfied and committed in their marriages, according to a new study from the University of Missouri.

"We found that there's a unique relationship among income level, government assistance and marital satisfaction and commitment," said David Schramm, assistant professor in Human Development and Family Studies in the College of Human Environmental Sciences. "The study confirms that low income does have a negative impact on marital quality, but there are additional factors as well. The relationship between income and marital satisfaction is influenced by other issues, including whether or not the couple receives some form of government assistance."

The study reported that couples with low incomes, under $20,000 per year, scored significantly lower on five of the six dimensions of marital quality. Overall satisfaction, commitment, divorce proneness, feelings of being trapped in a marriage and negative interaction are some of the criteria the couples were scored on. Married couples with low-earning incomes while on government assistance reported significantly lower levels of overall marital satisfaction.

"Economic hardship, the feeling of strain and tension associated with money issues, tends to be a driver for other stressors," Schramm said. "For example, if couples can't pay the bills, then they are likely to be more irritable and stressed about other areas of life. This leads to negative interactions between spouses or individual feelings of being trapped because they can't survive on their own. It's a constant drain on many aspects of marital quality and overall well-being."

Schramm says these finding may help get marital counseling to those in need.

"Now we've identified a specific population to target with marriage and relationship education," Schramm said. "No longer will we reach out to just low-income couples. Specifically, programs will target couples who receive government assistance and provide resources, including healthy relationship and wellness education, employment training and financial planning."

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