(Eventual) Stability and Change Across Partnerships

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  • Does a new partnership differ from its preceding one? This study investigates whether relationship dynamics change as people transition from one partnership to another and examines a number of predictors that might explain variation in change trajectories. We draw on data gathered from 554 focal participants in the German Family Panel (pairfam) study surveyed at four time points spanning two intimate unions to answer these questions. Latent change score modeling results showed eventual stability in five of seven constructs under investigation. When looking at overall change from Time 1 in partnership 1 to Time 2 of partnership 2, there were no mean-level changes in relationship and sexual satisfaction, perceptions of relational instability, and frequency of conflictual and intimate exchanges. Sexual frequency and partner admiration improved across partnerships. Further analyses showed much change unfolded in the interim; all constructs showed significant deterioration as the first partnership drew to a close, marked improvements as individuals moved from the end of the first partnership into their next union, and worsened across the first year of the second partnership. Neuroticism and relationship length were the most consistent predictors of change across partnerships: those in shorter first partnerships and with higher neuroticism typically experienced decreases in functioning across partnerships. These findings provide support for an eventual stability conceptualization of relationship development across partnerships.

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    Article (Published)
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    Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International