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Family Transitions and Marital Problems: Accumulation or Compensation of Intimacy Problems Through the Phases of the Family Life Course?

Alexandre Pollien, Paul D. Widmer, Jean-Marie Le Goff, Francesco Giudici

In this study, the authors take a large representative and longitudinal sample of couples living in Switzerland, based on the points of view of women who took part in a survey, and use it to draw a portrait of the progression of conjugal problems occurring over the different phases of family life. The gradual worsening of relationships is reconstructed using two measurements at an interval of five years. The origin of the conjugal difficulties is observed through the prism of family transitions, more especially the birth of children, their starting school, and their departure from the family home. The authors’ analyses demonstrate the destabilizing potential of these transitions for the couple. The ups and downs of the relational equilibrium do, in certain cases, lead to a build-up of difficulties that take over the conjugal space and end by creating a situation from which there is no way out.