Scientific and theoretical foundations for the study of the problems of the psychology of marital relations

Basic job data

Template Version 1.1
Branch Ryazan branch
Type of work Electronic written pre-defense
Name of discipline Theoretical, methodical and practical problems of social psychology.
Subject Marital roles in today’s young family
Last name of the graduate Smirnova
Graduate name Anastasia
Middle name of the graduate Yuryevna
contract number


Chapter 1

1.1. Modern young family as an object and subject of psychological research

1.2. Essence, content and features of role differentiation in the modern family

Chapter 2. Organization, methodology and results of the ascertaining experiment to test the research hypothesis.

2.1. Characteristics of the design, methodology and sample of the study

2.2. The results of the ascertaining experiment on the study of the content and features of the role interaction of spouses in families

2.3. Psychological recommendations for family psychologists and young spouses on optimizing role interaction in family relationships



List of bibliographic sources


Annex A Methodology for determining the features of the distribution of roles in the family (Yu. E. Aleshina, L. Ya. Gozman)

Appendix B Marriage satisfaction test (The authors of the questionnaire are V.V. Stolin, T.L. Romanova, G.P. Butenko)


Family relations are the oldest type of socio-cultural and gender relationships of a person. Since ancient times, the family has been the basis of the existence of the human race, a unit without which it was not possible to carry out its further continuation. Family relationships depend on many factors, have a wide variety and, based on this, there is no single correct model of family relationships that at least approximately generalizes this type of human relationship. This is one of the main reasons for the relevance of studying this issue.

Also, a weighty reason for the study of family relationships is the change in value systems and priorities of society over time and depending on the distribution of social roles in it. Having delved into the history of interpersonal relations, one can observe significant changes in the understanding of marriage, both in a temporal context – from tribal communities of primitive people to the registration of marriage relations between two people in modern history – and in the context of different ethnic and social strata of the population, which is good the basis for extensive and massive research on this issue by psychologists-specialists.

It should be noted that the identified factors not only create the basis for research on this issue, but also create some difficulties in its study. Thus, the different views of the studied objects on the problem of family relationships cause quite lively disputes and discussions, and an extensive research base requires attention and detailed study by experienced and reasonable specialists in this field, able to think ahead, catching developing and new trends in the formation of interfamily relationships, with broad and deep knowledge in the field of family psychology.

In this paper, we will focus on marital roles according to experts in this field of psychology and their distribution in a modern young family.

At present, the issues of studying the specifics of marital interaction are particularly acute, as well as the relationship of spouses to various aspects of family life, the spouses’ ideas about the desired distribution of roles in the family, as well as their ideas about their family as a whole. This problem comes to the fore, as many family psychologists-consultants note, when a young family enters a time of crisis.

In connection with the rapidly changing social priorities in society, in the modern family, socially important roles change with amazing speed, are filled with new content, which makes scientific interest in their study relevant. Based on the foregoing, the transformation of modern society necessitates the study of family relations in modern families, the creation of a new theoretical basis for providing psychological assistance to the family.

The purpose of the work is to organize and implement a theoretical and experimental study of the problem of the role interaction of spouses in modern families

The research hypothesis is that the most optimal distribution of marital roles occurs in egalitarian families.

Object – marital relationships in modern families

The subject is the content and features of the functioning of the role structure in the modern family


1. Conduct a theoretical analysis of scientific psychological approaches to the study of the problem of family relations in the context of the role interaction of spouses.

2. Organize and conduct experimental work (stating experiment) to test the proposed research hypothesis.

3. Summarize the results of the OER and, on their basis, develop a set of psychological recommendations for family psychologists and young spouses on optimizing role interaction in family relationships

Research base: in this work, 20 married couples were studied.
Research methods:

Study and analysis of special literature.

Methodology for determining the features of the distribution of roles in the family (Yu. E. Aleshina, L. Ya. Gozman) – to determine the type of family.

Marriage satisfaction test (Authors of the questionnaire – V.V. Stolin, T.L. Romanova, G.P. Butenko) – to determine the psychological well-being in the family.

Main part

Scientific and theoretical foundations for the study of the problems of the psychology of marital relations

1.1. Modern young family as an object and subject of psychological research

In everyday life, and in some specialized literature, the concept of “family” is often correlated with the concept of “marriage”. But in practice, these concepts, which, at first glance, are the same, are not.

Marriage is historically established various mechanisms of social regulation (taboo, custom, religion, law, morality) of sexual relations between a man and a woman, aimed at maintaining the continuity of life[11].

The purpose of marriage is to create a family and have children, so the marriage of people imposes on them certain marital and parental rights and obligations[11].

From the foregoing, it becomes clear that the desire of a man and a woman to build their lives together, to have an intimate relationship, to have and raise children, to own property, should be regulated by marriage, which is registered by the relevant state bodies and further protected by the state.

The concept of the family constitutes a somewhat more complex system of gender relations than marriage, since it unites not only relations between spouses, but also children and other relatives. The concept of “family” carries not only marital relations between a man and a woman, but also a certain system of connections, interactions and relations of individuals that can perform the functions of reproduction of the human race and regulate all connections, interactions and relationships on the basis of certain values and norms subject to extensive social control through a system of positive and negative sanctions[17].

In modern science, one cannot find a single definition of the family, although the first prerequisites for its formation were carried out by great thinkers many centuries ago (Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Hegel, etc.). Most often, the family is characterized as the main cell of society participating in the socio-biological reproduction of society, although in recent years the family has been increasingly called a specific small socio-psychological group, thereby emphasizing that it is characterized by a special system of interpersonal relations, which to a greater or lesser extent degrees are governed by laws, moral norms, and traditions[6].

So, the family is a small socio-psychological group, whose members are connected by marriage or kinship, common life and mutual moral responsibility, and the social need for which is due to the need of society for the physical and spiritual reproduction of the population[28].

A number of characteristic features of a young family can be distinguished, which determine all the most important elements of its psychology: the nature and structure of intra-family relations, reproductive orientations, which together constitute the psychological portrait of a modern young family. Taking into account these features will contribute to the development of an effective system of psychological support[45].

A young family, as a rule, consists of young people who have not yet established their social and material status. At the same time, a young family has objectively increased financial needs due to the need to carry out the process of family life: acquiring housing, organizing everyday life, caring for young children. A young family is a giving birth family. It is known that the reproductive period of a married couple, depending on its physiological characteristics, can last up to 20 years or more from the beginning of marriage. But, basically, children are born in young families. It is at this stage of marriage that in most cases the issue of the birth of children and their desired number is decided. However, social conditions and personal considerations of the spouses can lead to the fact that the family refuses to have children for the sake of a career, material well-being, etc. At an older age, it becomes much more difficult to ensure childbearing.

As for the structure of positive attitudes and orientation towards the average number of children, the opinions of young spouses generally converge on two. At the same time, this attitude is noticeably higher among women than among men, who would not mind a third child[11].

Spouses with a higher socio-professional level are focused on a noticeably smaller number of children than those who belong to lower status categories[11].

One of the most common sources of conflict in a young family is the dependence of spouses on parents. Another important source of disagreement in the family is the difficulty of young spouses to achieve role compatibility in marriage. Now there is no single model of family relations. Future spouses build their model depending on the model of the parental family, other familiar families, on the basis of information from books, TV shows, etc., and before marriage, the spouses rarely determine for themselves this important issue, each other’s attitude towards it[2].

The source of conflicts in a young family can also be the different views of the spouses on how they will behave outside the family sphere, how close their ties will be with premarital friends, girlfriends, neighbors, where and how the husband and wife will work, whether they will work at all and how much to work, since a young family almost simultaneously solves the problems of the professional development of spouses[48].

In the first years of marriage, the process of adaptation of spouses to each other takes place, and contradictions or an inadequate course of this process can lead the family to disintegration, most likely in the first five years of marriage. Therefore, the level of divorces in young families is consistently high. About half of all marriages fail. Each newly created family is subjected to serious socio-economic and psychological tests and often cannot withstand the stress. In young families, as a rule, it is psychologically very difficult to distribute family responsibilities and roles. Each of the spouses has to adapt to a state that, compared with premarital independence and freedom, seems like a heavy necessity. The low level of preparedness of young people for the future family life does not allow them to cope with internal contradictions arising from the uneven distribution of family responsibilities. It is very important at this moment to help young people in the formation of respect for each other’s character traits, which is so scarce in modern marriage, the ability to understand and forgive a person who, by the will of fate, should become a life partner[29].

Another characteristic phenomenon in the life of a modern young family is the ever-increasing proportion of interethnic marriages. In such families, differences in national psychological attitudes are added to the complexities of the general psychological plan.

The current stage of development of a young family is characterized by a predominant shift in family values towards spiritual and personal orientations and attitudes. Most spouses in marriage and family value above all love, mutual respect, commonality of views, interests and spiritual closeness. Without belittling the importance of material well-being in the life of a young family, it should be noted that with a relatively higher intellectual, socio-professional, cultural and educational level of modern young spouses, their requirements for each other’s personal qualities and for psychological comfort in the family have increased significantly over the past decades[ eighteen].

An integral indicator of the quality of relations in a young family can be the degree of satisfaction of the spouses themselves with family life. Sociological surveys show that in young families, neither the husband nor the wife is completely satisfied with any of the main aspects of their family life. Moreover, only in 3 – 4 cases satisfaction with some aspects of their lives was expressed by a small majority of respondents, and in the remaining 11-12 cases such a positive balance of feelings is expressed by the number of respondents from 50 to 20 percent. Spouses are least satisfied with their financial support, housing conditions, the number of children in the family and how they spend their free time. All these data correspond in their character and structure to the general unfavorable position of a young family in modern conditions[42].

During the initial period of the existence of the family, as a rule, the mutual adaptation of the personal qualities of the spouses is completed, the division of family responsibilities is approved, in most cases children are born and, thus, one of the most important stages in the formation of the family as a social group ends. For a whole set of reasons, a young family is able to determine the prospects for the existence of the very institution of the family. Performing the most important social functions, a young family at the same time carries the inevitable elements of social risk, and therefore, more than an adult family, it needs the help of society and the state, to create conditions for its normal functioning. This determines the need to accompany a young family in order to prevent unfavorable trends in its dynamics and strengthen all its vital foundations[4].

Let us consider in more detail how the psychological aspects of the problem of family well-being are presented in modern scientific literature. A.N. Obozova believes that a stable marriage is determined by the coincidence of the interests and spiritual values of the spouses and the contrast of their personal qualities. Family stability is also facilitated by the ability of family members to negotiate all aspects of living together. Specialists in family psychotherapy proceed from the fact that “a normally functioning family is a family that performs its functions responsibly and in a differentiated way, as a result of which the need for growth and change is satisfied both for the family as a whole and for each of its members.” According to the point of view of Lederer and Jackson, a good marriage is one that is characterized by the following features: tolerance, respect for each other, honesty, desire to be together, similarity of interests and value orientations.

Burgess and Locke define a prosperous family according to the following criteria:

1. The feeling of belonging of all family members to the family group and the consideration of any other persons as strangers;

2. Full integration of individual actions to achieve family goals.

3. The assumption that land, money, household items and things are family values.

4. The obligation to support family members and provide them with assistance in case of need.

5. The confidence of each family member in the support of other family members in the event of an attack by strangers.

6. Caring for the well-being of the family.

7. Assistance to adult children at the time of the beginning and continuation of their economic
mimic activity in line with family expectations.

None of the criteria for the quality of family relationships is of such interest to researchers as the satisfaction of spouses in marriage. The authors of a huge number of studies on this topic agree with each other that some time after marriage, and most often after the birth of the first child, marital satisfaction among spouses begins to decrease. In the work of D. Osner, a relationship was revealed between the joint nature of spending free time and satisfaction with marriage with a marriage period of up to 5 years, mainly among men. After five years of marriage, both spouses, although men are somewhat more than women, prefer to relax individually. J. Medling and M. McCarey found that the similarity of values according to the Rokeach test is not associated with satisfaction with marriage with a family life of up to 12 years. L. Tamir and K. Antonuzzi showed that a shorter length of marriage is associated with a greater number of social ties, but with less satisfaction with them. Valuable refinements to these data were made by R. Gilford and W. Bengston. Based on theoretical developments suggesting that marital satisfaction is the resulting indicator of two variables – positive and negative, they tried to trace the changes in each of them depending on family length. Measuring the positive and negative interaction of spouses in the group of families with an average length of married life of 3 years showed that the changes in the positive component are U-shaped, that is, the positive component reaches a maximum at the beginning of married life, then it sharply decreases, so that again several rise in families with more than 40 years of experience. The value of negative interaction steadily decreases with the increase in the length of married life.

A large number of studies are devoted to the problem of the influence of children on the relationship of spouses, especially in the situation of the appearance of the first child, which can also be directly attributed to a young family. Contradictory data have been obtained here: some studies show that after the birth of the first child, satisfaction with marriage among young parents decreases sharply; in other studies, on the contrary, it is noted that parents experience an increase in satisfaction with their family life. However, all studies have noted that after the birth of a child, and in some cases even while waiting for it, a married couple is going through a crisis associated with the acquisition of new roles by the spouses and changes in existing relationships in the couple. The birth of a child causes an increase in sex-role differentiation in the relationship of spouses, it becomes necessary for the young spouses to become in a qualitatively new role – parental. The parental role, in addition to many positive experiences, gives parents a lot of trouble. In the above studies on marital satisfaction, it is noted that after the birth of a child, spouses begin to complain about the deterioration in the quality of interpersonal communication in the family. In the work of B. Miller, a close relationship has been established between such factors as satisfaction with marriage and a sense of camaraderie between spouses. And the feeling of camaraderie of the spouses, in turn, negatively correlates with the number of children in the family. The presence of children reduces the frequency of interpersonal communication of spouses and, accordingly, satisfaction with marriage, which reaches its climax during the period when the first child goes to school.

There is also evidence of changes taking place in the interpersonal perception of spouses, in their communication with each other, in the distribution of roles, in the characteristics of sexual relationships, etc. reasons, which in essence is the most important issue, especially in connection with the need for practical use of the data obtained in empirical studies. After all, only knowing this answer, one can try to influence the ongoing changes in a targeted way, trying to mitigate their possible negative consequences in specific work with young families, carrying out the process of social and pedagogical support.

In the modern world, the position of a young family is significantly influenced by those long-term trends that are caused by global modernization processes. In the conditions of modern Russia, a young family found itself at the crossroads of two more large-scale processes – radical changes in social development and modernization of the very institution of the family. These difficulties are further exacerbated by the deep socio-economic and psychological crisis, in which the functioning and development of a young family is accompanied by problems not only of a material, but also of a spiritual and ideological nature. The processes of socialization and adaptation taking place in specific young families inevitably undergo various transformations, which leads to profound changes in the life of a young family. “The family is “curling up”, minimizing itself, its space, expenses and efforts. The first step in such curtailment is the rejection of children or the postponement of their birth. The second step is the collapse of the family nucleus itself, the disintegration of a couple of spouses and the reduction of the social unit of identification that is fighting for existence to one person”[1].

1.2 The essence, content and features of role differentiation in the modern family

The distribution of responsibilities is usually the basis of family life, and the issue of their division between husband and wife is extremely important for every family. At the same time, it should be taken into account that the optimal distribution of household duties takes into account not only the possibilities, but also the desire of each of the spouses to fulfill them, since the burden of fulfilling undesirable obligations to the family negatively affects the harmony in it.

The main distinguishing feature of modern young families is the individual practice of family values and norms, which does not always correspond to traditional ideas about them. In the sphere of the formation of the family structure of the spouses, the model of marital relations, taken by each of the spouses from the parents’ house, as well as from the experience of family life of familiar families, is of great importance[22].

It is not so rare that the formation of one’s own intra-family relations becomes a complex, long-running process, but at the same time, the same perception and commonality of views on the functional role of each of them in the family depends only on the spouses themselves. Considering this issue, it would be useful to refer to the classifications offered by well-known foreign and Russian experts in the field of psychology of family relationships[31].

The system of family roles, in accordance with the most important functions of the family, is distinguished by S. V. Kovalev. In his opinion, the basis for the stability and well-being of marriage is the consistency of spouses in terms of functional and role indicators. Among these roles, he identifies the following:

1. The role of the person responsible for the material support of the family, which includes duties to provide the family with material benefits according to the required level of well-being.

2. The role of the host or hostess. The implementation of this role implies the domestic part of family well-being, maintaining comfort and a favorable climate in the family nest – purchasing food, cooking, ensuring comfort, cleanliness and order, caring for clothes, etc.

3. The role of the person responsible for maintaining family ties. This role obliges the spouse to participate in family rituals and ceremonies, organize communication with relatives and assist in the social development of family members.

4. The role of the organizer of the family subculture. The implementation of this family role implies the formation of certain cultural values among family members and their corresponding interests and hobbies.

5. The role of the entertainment organizer. This family role is relatively young, and implies the initiation and organization of family leisure activities within the framework of family life.

6. The role of the family psychotherapist. Like the previous role, this role is also relatively young, and involves providing psychological support to any other family member, up to making decisions and taking actions aimed at solving the problems of this family member. It should be noted here that the performance of this role directly depends on the degree of satisfaction with the marriage bonds of the spouse performing this role.

7. The role of a love partner. The partner who assumes this role is more active in the field of sexual relations.

8. The role of the person responsible for the care of the infant. The fulfillment of this role implies providing a common child with physical and psychological comfort in the first year and a half of his life.

The well-known family psychologist T.S. Yatsenko, based on the results of her research, singled out, in contrast to S.V. Kovaleva, only four main marital roles: sexual partner, friend, guardian, patron.

According to the specialist, it is these roles that are associated with the satisfaction of the most significant needs of marriage partners: sexual, the need for emotional connection and warmth in relationships, the need for protection, guardianship and in the sphere of household duties. Options for combining these roles determine the nature of relationships in the family. To build harmonious and favorable family relationships, it is necessary that all of the listed roles take place in the distribution of roles between spouses.

In contrast to domestic researchers, the American sociologist K. Kirkpatrick believes that in marital relations, three fundamental types of family roles are decisive: traditional, comradely and partner roles.

1. Traditional roles distribute marital responsibilities as follows: the wife must give birth and raise children, create her own home and set herself the priority task of maintaining it and ensuring domestic well-being, prevailing subordination of her own interests to the interests of the head of the family, in the role of which the husband acts, adaptation to dependence and tolerance in relation to the forced restriction of spheres of activity.

The tasks of the husband in the field of maintaining family harmony are indicated strictly sequentially – he must be devoted to the mother of his children, ensure the economic protection and security of the family, maintain family control and power in his own hands, and be responsible for making major decisions.

2. The comradely role implies maintaining external attractiveness, providing moral support and sexual satisfaction, maintaining social contacts useful for the husband, providing interesting communication, diversity in life and eliminating boredom from the wife.

The role of the husband is to admire his wife and treat her chivalrously, reciprocate romantic love and tenderness, provide her with the means for outfits, entertainment, and spending leisure time with her.

3. The roles of partners require the spouses to equally contribute to the material budget of the family, share domestic, legal family responsibility and common responsibility for children.

The assumptions of the psychotherapist A. B. Dobrovich are based on the fact that the basis for building marital relations is the model of relations learned by a person in childhood, in his own family. He identifies four main models of relations between husband and wife: father – daughter, mother – son, brother – sister, friend – friend.

For any person, the easiest and most acceptable model is the one where the person is in a state of patronage and protection by the spouse – for men, this is the mother-son model, for women, the father-daughter model. Just as there are few women who are comfortable with the role of mother, there are equally few men who are willing to play the role of father to their spouse.

On this basis, a role conflict inevitably arises, which is sometimes the main reason for the breakup of a married couple. As for the buddy-friend model, we can say with confidence that it is obviously unsuitable for creating a family: from the very beginning, this model of marital relations does not imply any clear mutual obligations.

According to A. B. Dobrovich, the most acceptable and harmonious model of relations is the brother-sister model, since in this case the spouse is perceived as a half-relative, with whom it is difficult to break off relations in the soul.

Even in a major quarrel, spouses who implement such a relationship model do not think about breaking up, since attachment is stronger than any resentment, and it teaches to find compromises, teaches tolerance for other people’s shortcomings, an objective view of complex family problems, flexibility and tolerance in many things.

The statement of the Czech psychotherapist S. Kratochvil is popular that the role behavior of spouses in the family, especially in the initial period of its formation, is associated with an unconscious tendency to repeat the family model of their parents. This can have a significant impact on the relationship between young spouses, whether the two models are the same or different.

At the same time, the role that each spouse learns is based on identifying himself with his parent of the same gender, and the idea of a spouse is based on ideas about a parent of the opposite sex. For young spouses, parental relationships are a kind of standard against which they compare their roles in their own family. At first, both spouses often show compliance with their partner, motivating their actions with a desire to adapt to him, but over time, a return to the previous behavior is possible, which often does not meet the expectations of the spouse’s partner, repeating mistakes in the family life of their parents, which creates conditions for conflict , which negatively affects the stability of marital bonds [1].

The distribution of roles in marriage also largely depends on what format of partnership each of the spouses seeks to implement, and whether it corresponds to the idea and expectations of the partner. If both spouses have the same views on marriage, mutual understanding is more easily achieved in their family, the process of recognizing each other is easier. In accordance with this provision, the following classification of role behavior and role expectations of spouses was proposed [2].

1. Partner expecting equality: focused on asserting equal rights and equal responsibilities.

2. Romantic partner: seeks spiritual harmony in a partner, strives to create strong bonds of love, sentimental symbols play a very large role for such a person, and therefore, if the partner does not live up to expectations by refusing to play these romantic games, the romantic partner feels deceived

3. Partner – “parent”: cares for and educates a partner who occupies a “childish” role

4. “Childish” partner: brings some spontaneity, spontaneity and joy to the marriage, but at the same time acquires power over his other “childish” way at the meta-complementary level, i.e. by showing weakness and helplessness.

5. Rational partner: soberly assesses the situation and emerging situations, strictly observes rights and obligations, the manifestation of violent emotions is not typical for this type of partner. He adapts well to life, even if the partner does not share his views on behavior. The experiences of a partner often do not lend themselves to his analysis, and he may be mistaken in them.

6. Comradely partner: looking for a relationship based on the principles of partnership, looking for a companion who could share daily worries with him, live life. Romantic love is beyond the needs of such a partner, and the usual hardships of family life are perceived by him as inevitable duties.

7. Independent partner: such a partner in marriage creates and maintains a certain distance in relation to the partner, which is expressed in avoiding unnecessary intimacy in relations with the partner and requiring the partner to respect these requirements.

In family life, it is very important, along with the desire to coordinate one’s behavior with the role expectations of a marriage partner in family life, not to forget about one’s own desires and attitudes. Most often, a woman sacrifices her own interests “to the sacrifice” of her family, “to please” her husband, completely refusing to even try to declare her independence[47].

In this case, even such an important decision as life goals, such a partner allows the other to set for himself. The main desire of the spouse becomes pleasing and fulfilling the desires of his partner, unwillingness to take the initiative in relation to his own interests, pushing his own desires and needs into the background[32].

Such a policy of behavior in relationships leads both to unpleasant misunderstandings and to a one-sided distribution of roles, which will subsequently be perceived as enslavement and a burden. Such relationships based on domination and subordination, in certain life circumstances, result in an acute marital conflict.

The distribution of roles in the family is particularly influenced by gender stereotypes. Primary gender socialization is initially associated with the process of forming a primary gender identity, which in our culture is associated with the idea of oneself as a person of a certain biological sex. To a greater extent, this process is associated with the assimilation of normative patterns of gender manifestation of personality. So-called gender stereotypes are often associated with these normative patterns. Gender stereotypes are stable, repetitive, generally accepted ideas (opinions) about the place and roles of a particular gender in society, as well as about the personality of people of a particular gender identity[23].

Like any other social stereotypes, they determine the process of perception of people around and influence the active construction of social reality using the information embedded in them.

Gender stereotypes can be grouped into three groups[21]:

1. Stereotypes of masculinity/femininity, prescribing to people certain opinions about the somatic, mental and behavioral qualities characteristic of men and women.

2. Stereotypes of family and professional roles related to gender.

3. Stereotypes associated with the content of the activities of men and women.

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