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Marriage Studies

In a study by Cremin, Garnett, Gregson, Hallet, Mupambireyi, Mushati, and Nyamukapa, the authors focused their attention on measuring the trends in the age of individuals when experiencing their first sexual intercourse and the age of individuals when marrying in Minicaland, Zimbabwe. Due to the fact that this article was located in the journal, Sexually Transmitted Infections, one can assume that this article is related to promoting health and preventing sexually transmitted infections.

The objective of the study is more narrowly focused on indentifying biases in reporting and determining the type of influence of inconsistent reporting on the observed trends in the timing of age at first sexual intercourse and age at marriage of the people of Minicaland, Zimbabwe. In conducting this study, longitudinal data from three rounds of a population based group in a town within eastern Zimbabwe were analyzed. A longitudinal study is defined as an analysis of data gathered over time after consecutive rounds of observation and data collection.

Reports of age at first sexual intercourse and age at first marriage from 6,837 individuals engaging in the study were classified according to consistency, and an analysis of births and survival was used to identify trends in the timing of first sexual encounter and first marriage. Both the consistency of reporting and the actual data collected were analyzed to produce a clearer picture of both the sexual and marriage trends as well as presumed honesty as demonstrated by consistency in reporting.

In viewing the results of this study, it was determined that within the study population in Zimbabwe, women initiate sex and enter marriage at younger ages than men but spend much less time between first sex and marriage. Also, among the individuals surveyed between 1998 and 2005, the median ages at first sexual intercourse and first marriage were 18. 5 years and 21. 4 years for men and 18. 2 years and 18. 5 years, respectively, for women aged 15–54 years.

Higher reported ages of both age at first sexual intercourse and age at marriage among those attending multiple surveys were found to be unreliable, however, excluding the reports identified as unreliable or false from these analyses did not have a significant effect on or alter the observed trends in either the age at first sexual intercourse or age at marriage. Tracing the birth groups as they aged revealed reporting biases, particularly among the youngest groups.

Comparisons of the birth groups, which span a period of over 40 years, indicate that median age at first sex has remained constant over time for women but has declined gradually for men. The conclusion of this study is that although many reports of age at first sexual intercourse and age at marriage were found to be unreliable, inclusion of such reports did not result in artificial generation or suppression of trends. According to the authors, it is possible to have false or unreliable data enter a large, longitudinal study such as this without the true, factual picture of demographics being markedly disturbed or altered in any way.

In reviewing this study, it is commendable that the study included over 1,000 people and was repeated several times over the course of decades. This lends to the validly of the study and results and conclusion drawn by the authors. However, it is always good to recognize that people can be dishonest with their self reported demographic information, even over the course of time. Just because many of the answers/data were reliably reported over time does not mean that all of the self reported information was true.

On the other hand, the large number of participants and the fact that the study was conducted over a long period of time certainly lends well to the idea that the findings in this study are indeed valid and worthy of consideration. In a different study by Knobloch, the author focuses her attention on examining the relational uncertainty within marriage. Due to the fact that this study was presented in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, one can assume that the author is attempting to gain insight into the functionality of social and personal relationships.

In studying marriage and the uncertainty which can enter into the hearts and minds of the individual members of the marriage partnership, one can have a clearer picture of what determines uncertainty in a marriage and perhaps how to help couples move from uncommitted or uncertain behavioral tendencies to more committed and certain ways of interaction. The author conducted two divided studies to examine the relational uncertainty within marriage. The first study gathered open-ended data from 85 individuals to identify issues spouses are unsure about.

The findings indicated 12 content areas, including uncertainty about children, communication, career issues, finances, health, commitment, extended family, sex, retirement, religious beliefs, leisure time, and household chores. The second study surveyed 125 couples to develop self reported measures of the content themes. The author generated several findings from her two studies. Regarding the first study, the author claims that only the commitment theme paralleled the doubts salient in dating relationships.

Regarding the second study, within the method of hierarchical linear modeling, or multilevel analysis, where groups are nested together within other groups, results revealed negative associations between relational uncertainty and marital quality. The self source and the communication and sex themes were the strongest predictors of marital quality. The author claims that the results of her study help to illuminate the nuances of relational uncertainty within marriage.

In establishing content areas for a survey and then administering a survey, the author believes she has helped to clarify the meaning of uncertainty and uncommitted behavioral tendencies within marriage, providing support for future research and greater understanding within the important and sensitive area of marriage studies. In reviewing this study, one cannot help but be disappointed. The relatively small number of participants in the two studies limits the ability of the general study to be widely recognized and taken seriously.

Small groups of subjects lend to a higher rate of invalidity of studies. Also, the descriptions of what the author means by terms such as “marriage” and “dating relationship” are unclear. She seems to use the terms synonymously, although many would argue that they are not. Also, terms such as “uncertain”, “health”, and “communication” are also left relatively undefined and lacking in detail. In order for a study to paint a genuine picture of uncertainty in marriage, all related terminology and themes must be clearly defined by the author, in order for a clear picture to be painted by the study.

Unfortunately, this study is lacking both in process, not establishing a large enough study group, as well as content, survey content left largely lacking in precise detail.

References

Cremin, I. , Garnett, G. , Gregson, S. , Hallet, T. , Mupambireyi, Z. , Mushati, P. , & Nyamukapa, C. (2009). Measuring trends in age at first sex and age at marriage in Minicaland, Zimbabwe. Sexually Transmitted Infections 85, i34-i40. Knobloch, L. (2008). The content of relational uncertainty within marriage. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships 25(3), 467-495.

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