Marital adjustment has long been a popular topic in studies of the family, probably because the concept is believed to be closely related to the stability of a given marriage. Well-adjusted marriages are expected to last for a life long time, while poorly adjusted ones end in divorce or separation. It refers to a subjective evaluation of a married couple’s relationship (Lewis & Spanier, 1985). Marital adjustment is the process of modifying, adopting or altering individual and couple’s pattern of behaviour and interaction to achieve maximum satisfaction in the relationship (Lively, 1996). Sinha and Mukerejee (1990) believed it is the state in which there are an over-all feeling between husband and wife, of happiness and satisfaction with their marriage and with each other. Marital adjustment is the process during which partners in a marriage adapt and change to their new roles complementing each other acting as a team opposed to two separate units. It is also important to unify the following interests and values, maintaining open lines of communication and encouraging the expression of each other’s communication.
When spouses get along with each other to achieve harmonious working relationship in different areas of their marital life, adjustment is achieved. Marital adjustment is a universal issue. This is because conflicts, stresses and threats of divorce and perhaps death (in some cases) have been the consequences of much family instability (Amaa-Kinde, 1996; Oyemerehaye, 1999; Agbe, 1998; Ebenuwa-Okoh, 2003, 2007). The concept of marital adjustment is complex and has multidimensional explanations. Spanier and Cole (1976) explained that it as a process of movement along a continuum which can be evaluated in terms of proximity to good or poor adjustment. This suggests that marital adjustment is a process which can be longitudinally studied over a period of time. Researchers (Spanier, et. al., 1976; Ofegba, 1998; Ebenuwa-Okoh, 2007) observed that the measure of marital adjustment do not generally assess a changing process, rather, it measures a position on a continuum from well-adjusted to maladjusted. Therefore, when marital adjustment is achieved, troublesome marital differences are greatly reduced.
Marital adjustment is also an embodiment of an agreement on how flexible each spouse is allowed to play his/her role as regards to social economic stability, emotional stability in marriage, sexual adjustment, changes in value system and communication (Clayton, 2000). When the interpersonal tensions and personal anxiety are well managed, there is always an increase in marital satisfaction, happiness and dyadic cohesion. Consensus on matters of importance in marital functioning, family, peace and stability are enhanced (Ebenuwa-Okoh, 2007). Marital adjustment occurs when each spouse enacts his/her role effectively to the satisfaction of each other (Obasa, 1990). Thus, marital adjustment is attributed to a range of factors including role expectations of spouses, level of work commitment, job satisfaction, spouse and values, socio-economic status, emotional instability, religious belief among others (Denga, 1986).
In well-adjusted marriage, both spouses try to make sure that their marriage will be successful. They also share common interest and joint activities. Marital adjustment is the integration of couples and in a union in which the two personalities are not merely merged or submerged, but interact to complement each other for mutual satisfaction and the achievement of common objective. It is also an environment characterized by a tendency of the spouses to resolve and solve conflicts and achieve overall feelings of happiness and satisfaction with marriage and with one another (Jose & Alfons, 2007). It is a process rather than a state.
Consequently, the degree of tension in a well-adjusted marriage is usually minimal and when tension arises it is always resolved amicably, probably in discussion and the level of tension and anxiety becomes very low. Some couples who lack or experience gap in communication often bottle up their emotions that someday explode leading to marital crisis. Some people express their emotions without restraints and without studying his/her partner’s temperament. With the knowledge that marriage involves ups and downs, it is expected that couples need to take out time to study each other by adjusting in some personal characteristic behaviours which may adversely affect their marital harmony. Hence, emotional may be a factor in marital adjustment.
Emotional expressiveness is the tendency to express one’s emotional reactions in observable behaviour. The tendency to express positive emotions (labeled positive expressiveness) can be practically concealed from the tendency to express negative emotions (negative expressiveness) (King & Emos, 1990; Gross & John, 1995; Gross, John & Richards, 2000). Among theorists and practitioners in the fields of psychology, psychiatry, and psychotherapy, it is a common belief that people’s mental health has a strong relationship to how they express their emotions (Sloan & Marx, 2004). Particularly, psychotherapists with humanistic orientations emphasize the role of emotional expressiveness in maintaining psychological and physical well-being and thus aim at improving their client’s access to and expression of feelings (Leising, Muller & Hahn, 2007; Whelton, 2004). Emotional expressiveness is the degree to which an individual actively expresses emotional experience through verbal or non-verbal behaviour (King, Smith & Neals, 1994). It is also a heuristic model of the emotion process in which environmental cues trigger emotional response tendencies; these tendencies prepare the individual to mount a behavioural response, subject to a number of emotional regulation processes (Gross & John, 1997).
Emotional expression in a marriage is characterized by joy, tolerance, care and acceptance of spouse’s inadequacies and devising a very polite manner of improving the inadequacy. Its manifestation requires maturity in the interpersonal relationship for it to be politely and successfully expressed. When people realize that they have control and power and can make a difference in any form or situation, it makes them more confident and subsequently improves their overall wellbeing materially and otherwise. It is often said “knowledge applied is power”. A couple with vast knowledge of their environment and marital issues will likely be more prepared to tackle it positively and this enhances marital adjustment.
It has been discovered that certain personality tendencies such as locus of control have a great influence on people’s relationships marital relationships. The term locus of control was first introduced in the 1950s by psychologist Julian Rotter. It refers to a person’s basic belief system about the influences that affect outcomes in their lives. There are two classifications of people in this theory: internal and external locus of control. Locus of control to an individual’s generalized expectations concerning where control over subsequent events resides (Neil, 2005). Horns (2000) believed that locus of control is an individual’s perception about the underlying main causes of events in his/her life. It is the extent to which people believe that they influence event in their lives.
Locus of control can be external or internal. People with an internal locus of control believe that they are primarily responsible for the outcomes in their lives. These people tend to be self-reliant and believe that nothing can hold them back except themselves. Studies have shown that those with an internal locus of control tend to be more successful people because they believe in their goal and work toward that goal (Neil, 2005; Obasa, 1990). Those with an external locus of control believe that forces outside of themselves affect their achievement ability. They tend to stake their future on things such as fate, luck, god or society. Because they believe they have very little personal stake in their future, those with an external locus of control tend to put less effort on most projects. Studies show that they are generally less successful in college and career than those with an internal locus of control (Judge & Bono, 2001). It is often believed that those with an external locus of control are destined to be unhappy (Lefcourt, 1996).
In a contrary observation, Aliyha, Sadaqat and Muhammad (2003) noted that there is no guarantee that those with an external locus of control are not unable to be successful nor that they are unhappy. Many individuals who are externally inclined are able to see life as a series of fated events that they can just as easily fall on the good side of life. Conversely, some are able to find freedom in this concept and live happy lives in the process whereas others do not. Those with an internal locus of control perceive that they can manage and adjust well with their marriages and life situations, while those with an external locus of control believe that what happen is beyond their environment, or some higher power or other people control their decisions and their life (Rotter, 1966). Hence, they may not well adjust to their marriage.
Many people believe age is but a number. The age in question refers to chronological period of the couples. To another set of people, this age is an indicator of maturity. The older one gets, the more likely he/she will reason and even behave better in a marital relationship. A minor (under aged person; i.e. someone below the age of 18 years) can hardly handle marital challenges satisfactorily. This is because the individual has not been well exposed or lacks adequate knowledge. The older person having lived or spent quite long time with his/her parents have more chances of weathering any storm that may threaten their marital bliss. Researchers reported that couples who have a considerable gap in their ages with at least ten years of age difference, report experiencing more social disapproval and if not compatible leads to marital maladjustment (Lamellap & Agnew, 2006).Thus, the age at which people marry could be crucial to marital adjustment. According to Shoen (1975), the younger the couple (i.e. age at marriage), the higher the likelihood of divorce.
Most research in the area of marital adjustment has focused on age at time of marriage (e.g. Booth & Edwards, 1995). There is virtually unanimous agreement that there is an inverse association between the age at first marriage and the probability of divorce, meaning that the younger one is when married, the higher the likelihood of divorce (Lee, 1997). People who marry early are at a higher risk of marital instability than those who marry later in life. One major reason for addressing age is that factors which are negatively related to marital adjustment (i.e. whether one divorces or remains married) include many which are related to age at time of marriage, such as low education, premarital pregnancy, short premarital acquaintance, personality maladjustment, and low socioeconomic background, locus of control (Burchinal, 1985).
Statement of Problem
The rate of divorce and marital crises seem to be on the increase owing to the fact that most couples in Nigeria go into marriage without adequate knowledge of marital challenges and how to handle them effectively. They lack information on what is obtainable in a marital setting. They rather, loose control instead of taking charge of developments arising from their marriage whether positively or negatively. But it seems the older an individual gets, the better his/her has sense of reasoning as well as ability to meet up with matrimonial responsibilities. On the other hand, the tendency to express emotions (positive emotion expressiveness or negative emotion expressiveness) is perceived to influence marital adjustment (King & Emos, 1990; Gross, John & Richards, 2000). In the same vein, those with an internal locus of control have been judged to manage and adjust well with their marriages and life situations, while those with an external locus of control are expected to believe that what happen is beyond their environment, or some higher power or other people control their decisions and their life (Rotter, 1966).
Most of these researches are purposefully conducted in foreign contexts. Since the foreign wave of development is rapidly blowing across other local contexts, it is likely that the above variables (emotional expressiveness, locus of control and age) which are only assumed to influence marital adjustment in a contemporary foreign culture could as well do so in our local settings. It is against this backdrop that this study specifically attempts to provide answers to the following research problems: