August 2015: Impact of financial problems on relationships
In the month of August, Relationships Australia’s monthly online survey focussed on the impact of finances on relationships. The questions for August’s survey were sourced from Relationships Australia’s 2011 Relationship Indicator’s survey, a study which was conducted at regular intervals over a ten year period to 2011 (Woolcott, 2011).
Evidence suggests that there is a complex relationship between family finances and relationships. For example, in the Relationship Indicators survey key external influences identified by participants as contributing to relationship problems were financial stress and work pressures, with a third of all partnered respondents citing financial stress as a key negative external influence on their couple relationship. Money and disagreements about money are also a major cause of divorce.
Unresolved financial issues can lead to blame, anger, stress and intimacy problems in relationships. On the other hand, unemployment, mental health, addiction and relationship issues can lead to money problems. While employment can help with financial problems, the Relationships Indicator’s survey also identifies that factors associated with work can negatively impact on relationships, including time and workplace pressure and stress.
- Low income, and more so, receipt of government assistance are associated with marital dissatisfaction.
- Disagreement over finances is a stronger predictor of divorce than other commonly cited causes of marital disagreements.
- 7 out of 10 couples report that money causes tension in their relationships.
Just under 2050 people responded to the Relationships Australia’s online survey in August, with more than three quarters of survey respondents (77%) identifying as female.
As was the case for last month’s survey, more females than males responded in every age group (figure 1). Just under ninety per cent of survey respondents were aged between 20‑59 years, with the highest number of responses collected for women aged between 30-39 years (inclusive).
The demographic profile of survey respondents remains consistent with our experience of the people that would be accessing the Relationships Australia website.
Survey participants were asked a range of questions about the impact of financial problems on relationships. Just under 85 per cent (84.4%) of survey respondents thought that financial problems were likely to push couples apart, while around ten per cent (8.4%) thought that financial problems were likely to keep couples together (figure 2). These results were similar to the results of the 2011 Relationships Indicator’s survey (71% and 11% respectively).
Of survey respondents who indicated that they thought financial problems were more likely to keep couples together, 43% indicated that this was because couples worked together to sort things out, while 39% thought it was because couples couldn’t afford to break up (figure 3).
Of survey respondents who indicated that they thought financial problems were more likely to push couples apart, almost one-third (29%) thought this was due to people’s different priorities and expectations. One‑quarter thought it was because there was too much stress, while a further 19% of survey respondents thought financial problems caused fights (figure 4).
Figure 5 reports on survey respondent’s expectations of their financial futures. There were no significant differences between the reports of men and women; however similar to results reported for the 2011 Relationship Indicators survey, younger age groups were more like report that they thought their financial situation was likely to improve.
Survey respondents were also asked who manages the finances in the household. Around three-quarters (75%) of female respondents reported that they, or the female partner managed the household finances, while a further 24% indicated that the household finances were managed by their male partner. Similarly, three-quarters (73%) of male repondents reported that they managed the household finances, while a further 25% indicated that the household finances were managed by a female partner.
Dew, J, Britt, S and, Huston, S, 2012, Examining the Relationship Between Financial Issues and Divorce, Family Relations, Vol. 61(4): 615–628
Schramm D, G and Harris V, W, 2011, Marital Quality and Income: An Examination of the Influence of Government Assistance Journal of Family and Economic Issues, Vol. 32(3):437-448
Woolcott Research, 2011, Issues and concerns for Australian relationships today, available at < http://www.relationships.org.au/what-we-do/research/australian-relationships-indicators/relationships-indicator-2011>