228 Wedding Bells and Social Networks

Based on research by Kearns, Jill N. and Leonard, Kenneth E. (2004) written by Mara Rowcliffe, MS.

After marriage, how do you figure out how much to do things together as partners, keep your own friends, and see your two families?

Psychology researchers evaluated how marital quality is influenced by this process of accepting and joining mutual friends and family social groups. Researchers collected data from 350 couples at the time of marriage, and at first and second year anniversaries. Each partner in the couple completed a separate questionnaire evaluating their merging their social groups and marital quality.

Results show the importance of social environment in understanding the relationship progression. After marriage, couples’ merging their social groups increased. In fact, husbands and wives who reported merging more of their groups had better marital adjustment at each future assessment. Those who are controlling or more set in their ways may have more difficulty including their spouse, not easily forming “couple identity.” They note that failing to integrate smoothly may negatively impact the development of positive marital quality, especially for women.

Hear wedding bells or cohabitation? Consider how to encourage your social relationships to include your partner. What role will your family and friends play in your relationship?


Kearns, J. N., & Leonard, K. E. (2004). Social networks, structural interdependence, and marital quality over the transition to marriage: a prospective analysis. Journal of Family Psychology, 18(2), 383.

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