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"Financial Stress and Marital Quality" - Linda Skogrand, Ph.D. | September 2020

Utah State University
Author of Marriages and Families, McGraw Hill

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It is reasonable to assume that financial stress creates challenges in marriages, and research has found that to be true (Kelley, LeBaron, & Hill, 2018). It affects one’s attitude towards life itself and, therefore, affects how one treats one’s partner. Little conflicts can lead to larger arguments, which results in marital conflict.

Men are more likely to be negatively affected by financial stress which is probably because society expects men to be the provider in the family. Men are also less likely to talk about these stresses, adding to potential conflict since it may not be clear why he is in a bad mood or behaves badly toward his partner.

We all can relate to how financial stress affects everything a couple does. These comments might reflect their thoughts:

Let’s go to a movie and enjoy an evening out. No, that’s going to cost too much money.

I’ll go grocery shopping, but I have to be careful that I don’t spend money on things we really don’t need.

I really don’t want to get together with friends, because I don’t want to talk about anything that gets close to being about finances.

As you can see from the quotes above, financial stress is likely to affect everyone in the family. Children are affected because anything that affects their parents affects them. In addition to not being able to do all the things they usually do, they are likely to be in the middle of any conflict that results from stress.

Two things might be helpful for couples experiencing financial stress. First, they might want to meet with a financial counselor who can provide advice about the best way to deal with a difficult situation. Secondly, a couple might seek help from someone who can help them communicate in healthy ways during this stressful time. Research indicates that when couples can communicate in a healthy way, it is less likely there will be a long-term negative impact on the couple’s relationship (Kelley et al., 2018).

Questions for Discussion

  1. Have you experienced financial stresses in your family? Can you relate to the effects described above?
  2. How might a couple or family prepare for financial challenges?
  3. How might a couple help children understand what is happening when there are financial challenges?


Kelley, H. H., LeBaron, A. B., & Hill, E. J. (2018). Financial stress and marital quality: The moderating influence of couple communication. Journal of Financial Therapy, 9, 18-36.

About the Author

Linda Skogrand is an assistant professor and family life extension specialist at Utah State University in Logan, Utah. She began her professional career as a social worker in the inner-city of St. Louis, Missouri, and throughout her career has enjoyed a balance between academic institutions and social service organizations. She has also taught family courses at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota, for 17 years and was adjunct faculty at the University of Minnesota for several years. She has published articles focusing on values in parent education, the lives of families who have experienced Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, transcendence of traumatic childhoods, spirituality, strong Latino marriages, and debt and marriage. She has co-authored several books including "Surviving and Transcending a Traumatic Childhood: The Dark Thread, Coping with Sudden Infant Death, and Sudden Infant Death: Enduring the Loss." Her current research focuses on strong marriages in the Latino and American Indian cultures and she is currently conducting a national study of what makes “great” marriages with John DeFrain.