This study examined the psychosocial factors as predictors of marital stability among married women in private universities in Ogun State. Two hundred (N=200) women were randomly selected using stratified random sampling technique. Family Assessment Device, a subscale of McMaster Family Functioning Scales and Psychosocial Factors of Marital Stability Questionnaire (PSFMSQ) were used to measure marital stability, communication, age at marriage, in-laws’ interference and marital suspicion.  Five null hypotheses were raised and tested using descriptive and inferential statistics (Frequency and percentages, means, standard deviations and multiple regression). Results showed that the combination of communication, age at marriage, in-laws’ interference and marital suspicion accounted for the variation of 78.49% in marital stability. The findings revealed that there was a combined prediction of marital stability at f (3, 197) =3.389, at 0.05 significant level. There were significant contribution of communication (R=.449, R2=.2016, F (1,199)=30.49; p<.05.), age in marriage (R=.393, R2=.1546, F (1,199) =37.90; p<.05.), in-laws’ interference (R=.4108, R2=.1688 F (1,199) =21.05; p<.05.) and marital suspicions (R=.509, R2=.2599, F (1,199) =17.48; p<.05.) in the prediction of marital stability. The main implications of these findings are that suspicion in marriage and communication affect marital stability negatively. It was therefore recommended that government should use the mass media to create massive awareness on the need to check in-laws’ interference, discourage marital suspicion, recruit professional counsellors, psychologists and social workers to attend to various needs of couples and intending couples.



Background to the Study

The genesis of marriage and family can be traced to the Holy Bible. God ordained marriage for three purposes: for companionship, pleasure and procreation. Marriage and family is designed for the development of human race but unfortunately many families are enduring what they ought to enjoy (Ebiai & Bumba, 2004). Marriage is a socially sanctioned union, typically between one man and one woman usually called husband and wife. The type and functions of marriage vary from culture to culture. Legally sanctioned marriages are generally conducted between heterosexual couples, although there are a few countries that recognize same-sex marriage (Broude, 1994). The prevailing view towards marriage is that it is based on emotional attachment between the partners and entered into voluntarily.

There are different types of marriages: monogamy and polygamy. Monogamy is generally in two ways; strict monogamy where a person is allowed only one spouse per lifetime and serial monogamy where people can be married to more than one person – in succession. There are also several specialized types of monogamous marriages that involve cousins; bilateral, matrilateral, patrilateral and parallel cousin marriages (Kalafut, 2007). Bilateral cross-cousin marriage occurs when two men marry each other’s sisters. This entwines families very closely, and some societies continue it over several generations. Matrilateral cross cousin marriage occurs when a man is expected to marry his mother’s brother’s daughter. Continued over a number of generations, this eventually forms a circle where everyone is connected to each other. Patrilateral cross-cousin marriage occurs when a man is expected to marry his father’s sister’s daughter. Continued over a number of generations, this eventually forms a circle where everyone is connected to each other. Parallel Cousin marriage is an interesting form of marriage encouraged in some societies between the children of two brothers. This helps keep inheritance and property within the family line.

The term polygamy is a Greek word meaning “the practice of multiple marriage”. Polygamy can be defined as any “form of marriage in which a person [has] more than one spouse. Historically, polygamy has been practiced as polygyny (one man having more than one wife), or as polyandry (one woman having more than one husband), or, less commonly as “group marriage” (some combination of polygyny and polyandry).  All three practices have been found, but polygyny is by far the most common in the world (Kalafut, 2007).

A specialized version is called sororal polygyny where the man’s wives are sisters. Polyandry is where a woman can have more than one husband at the same time and is generally divided into fraternal polyandry (where the husbands are brothers) and nonfraternal polyandry (where the husbands are not related). Christianity gives room to total monogamy whereby one man is entitled to one wife while in the Islamic world, marriage is sanctioned between a man and up to four women. In most societies in Africa marriage was polygynic, where a man could have multiple wives. In such societies, multiple wives are generally considered a sign of wealth and power.

DeGenova and Rice (2005) reported that families are universal and yet each is unique. In an ever changing world, families cannot remain static. Thus, families today, are different from those of previous generations. They differ in structure, composition, size and function. DeGenova and Rice (2005) define family as any group of persons united by the ties of marriage, blood, or adoption, or any sexually expressive relationship. Families can be described according to their structure and the relationships among the people in them:

A Voluntary Childless Family is a couple who decide not to have children (Some refer to this as a childfree family). This is mostly found in the western world. In Africa, a childless family is frowned at by the society, making it clear, that children are valued. A Single-Parent Family consists of a parent (who may or may not have been married) and one or more children. A Nuclear Family consists of a father, mother, and their children. A family origin is the family into which one is born and raised. The family consists of a child, his parents, and his siblings. A family of procreation is the family you establish when you give birth to your own children. An extended family consists of a man, possibly a partner, any children you might have, and other relatives who live in your household or nearby (this also includes grandparents who are helping to care for grandchildren). A Blended or Reconstituted Family is formed when a widowed or divorced person, with or without children, remarries another person who may or may not have children. If either husband or wife has children from a former marriage or previous relationship, a stepfamily is formed.

A Bi-nuclear Family is an original family divided into two families by divorce. It consists of two nuclear families which are: the maternal nuclear family headed by the mother and the paternal family headed by the father. The families include whatever children were in the original family and may be headed by a single parent or two parents if former spouses remarry (Ahrons and Rodgers, 1987).

A polygamous family is a single family unit based on the marriage of one person to two or more mates. Thus, if the man has more than one wife, a polygynous family is formed. If the woman has more than one husband, a polyandrous family is formed. Polyandry is rare, but polygyny is practiced in African and Asian countries (DeGenova and Rice, 2005). A Patriarchal Family is one in which the father is head of the household, with authority over other members of the family. A Matriarchal Family is one in which the mother is the head of the household, with authority over other members of the family. A gay (male) or lesbian (female) family (homosexual) consists of a couple of the same sex who are living together and sharing sexual expression and commitment. Some gay or lesbian families include children, usually the offspring of one of the partners. A Cohabiting Family consists of two people of the opposite sex who are living together and sharing sexual expression, and who are committed to their relationship without a formal legal marriage (DeGenova and Rice, 2005).

Marital stability is not only a value term, but also a relative term. It implies firmness and strength to endure under hard as well as easy circumstances. This element of constancy, according to Hollingshead (2007), must not be confused with a static condition. Marriage and family problems represent a unique but common, category of adjustment difficulty that causes people to seek psychological treatment. Problems can develop in a couple’s relationships because of a medical or psychological problem in either person, or in one of their children. Parent-child problems can also create distress within a family. Sometimes, the couple itself is the problem because of poor communication, continuous conflict, alienation, sexual problems, or in-law problems (Donald, 2007). Jegede (1998) confirms that age at marriage is a factor that contributes to the problem of marital stability through the issue of early marriage.  Communication is the process of transmitting and receiving ideas, information, and messages. Healthy and poor communication in homes/marriages contributes to the stability or instability of such marriage. In-laws are relatives by marriage, especially the parents of the husband or wife. In-laws are generally perceived as “enemies” by couples. They are usually regarded as unnecessary interference in the scheme of things. Except in a few cases, many couples would rather keep their in-laws at arms length because too much familiarity brings contempt. But, as much as many couples would want to do this, the extended family practice by African culture may not permit it. Women especially, suffer the major consequence of in-laws’ interference in their marriage because in-laws see them as intruders who deprive them of the love and attention needed from their son.

Marital suspicion is an act of suspecting; the imagination or apprehension of the existence of something (especially something wrong or hurtful) without proof, or upon very slight evidence, or upon no evidence. Marital suspicion has deprived a large number of people their joy and peace; it has even led to cases of battering, divorce, murder and so on. Suspicion could be used interchangeably with cheating, jealousy, distrust, mistrust and doubt. The importance of marital stability cannot be over-emphasized; the stability of each marriage or family is eventually the stability of the nation at large. This study identified four psychosocial factors (communication, age at marriage, in-laws’ interference and marital suspicion) and it is against this backdrop that the research was been conducted in order to find out whether the identified factors could predict marital stability.

1.1      Statement of the Problem

Marriage is the major avenue whereby the society is been populated by the number of offspring that are born from such marriages. When there is marital instability, there is a problem in the raising and nurturing of the children, which leads to an increase in the rate of juvenile delinquency in the society. Youths are the future of the nation and when the home front is faulty, parents will not be able to cater for and correct their children, and no wonder we have a large number of drop-out cases which eventually turn out to become area boys and girls roaming (about) the streets. If this social menace is not addressed early enough, the future and hope of this nation may be dashed.

Another upshot of marital instability are sicknesses, diseases (e.g. high blood pressure, cardiac arrest, HIV/AIDS, mental disorder) and cases of untimely death. When peaceful atmosphere is replaced with chaos in marriage, the consequences are usually grievous. The death of either of the couple or both also has some effect on both the home and the nation. Children from such a home without any other social supports tend to join armed robbery gangs, prostitution and drug trafficking in search of a means of livelihood. All these will definitely affect Nigeria as a nation to be deprived of future leaders who will steer the wheel of the nation towards technological advancement and economic progress.

1.2      Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this study was to explore the extent to which psychosocial factors predict marital stability among women in private Universities in Ogun State; and which of the psychosocial factors would predict marital stability most.

1.3 Objectives of Study

This study seeks to:

1.  Examine marital stability among married women in private universities in Ogun State.

2.  Explore the psychosocial factors that are capable of predicting marital stability.

3.  Investigate the role of communication as a contributory factor to marital stability.

4.  Examine the effect of age at marriage on marital stability.

5.  Highlight the side effects of the role of in-laws’ interference on marital stability.

6.  Provide solutions that will assist individuals to avoid marital instability.

1.4    Research Questions

In order to achieve the stated objectives, the following research questions were raised:

i.  Will communication, age at marriage, in-laws’ interference and marital suspicion in a combined form predict marital stability among married women in private Universities?

ii.  Will communication predict marital stability among married women in Private Universities?

iii.  Will age at marriage predict marital stability among married women in Private Universities? iv. Will in-laws’ interference predict marital stability among married women in Private Universities?

v.  Will suspicion predict marital stability among married women in Private Universities?

1.5   Hypotheses

From the itemized research questions raised above, the following hypotheses were posited for testing with the minimum of 0.05 level of significance:

1.  Hypothesis one states that communication, age at marriage, in-laws’ interference and marital suspicion will not predict marital stability among married women in Private Universities.

2.  Hypothesis two states that communication will not predict marital stability among married women in Private Universities.

3.  Hypothesis three states that age at marriage will not predict marital stability among married women in Private Universities.

4.  Hypothesis four states that in-laws’ interference will not predict marital stability among married women in Private Universities.

5.  Hypothesis five states that marital suspicion will not predict marital stability among married women in Private Universities.

1.6     Significance of the Study

This study would be of benefit to couples, marriage/family counsellors, social workers, business organisations and the nation at large in the following ways: For couples, when the cause of marital instability is known, the couple will be able to improve or manage the causal factor(s) leading to instability in their home. For instance, if communication is the major problem among couples, this study will provide measures on how to communicate effectively thereby establishing a stabilized home which will enhance the upbringing of proper children and it will better the lot of the society. Marriage/family counsellors will benefit immensely from the result of this study because it will help in assisting their clients to solve various problems having known the likely factors that predict marital stability in marriages, implying that, the study will help counsellors to offer qualitative counsel to couples and family members that come for counselling. Social workers are part of helping professionals; this study will enable them (social workers) to offer qualitative help to individuals, couples and family members that come for assistance.

Stable marriages enhance the total well-being of every member of such a marriage/family, therefore, business organisations will benefit from this study because the employed individuals from stabilized homes will contribute intelligently to the growth of the organization. When such an individual is becoming less productive; the organization may help her seek for professional assistance of a counsellor. This, in turn, will again enhance effective delivery of the employee. Every marriage/family is a unit in the society/nation, and when there is peace and stability in marriages, the nation at large will experience peace and growth in all spheres of life.

1.7    Scope of the study

There are six Private Universities in Ogun state; Babcock University, The Bells University of Technology, Covenant University, Crawford University, Crescent University and Redeemers’ University but this study was limited to women in both Covenant University and Bells University of Technology to represent women in Private Universities in Ogun State.

1.8     Operational Definition of Terms 

The following terms are defined as used in this study.

Marriage: This is a legally recognized relationship, established by a civil or religious ceremony, between two people (of opposite sex) who intend to live together as sexual and domestic partners.

Family: people living together, or a group of people living together and functioning as a single household, usually consisting of parents and their children.

Marital Stability: This is a marital situation or condition that is steady and does not change.

Marital Instability: This is a state of marital disorderliness – a lack of steadiness or firmness.

Communication:  It is a process of transmitting and receiving ideas, information and messages.

In-law’s interference: These are unnecessary distractions caused by relations by marriage.

Marital Suspicion: It is a feeling that something is wrong; an unsubstantiated belief about something, especially a belief that something wrong has happened or that somebody may have committed a crime; or marital fear of the unknown.