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Couple Similarity and Marital Satisfaction: Are Similar Spouses Happier?

Relationship researchers have long been interested in whether greater similarity is associated
with better relationship quality (e.g., Heaton, 1984; Meyer & Pepper, 1977; see for review
Karney & Bradbury, 1995). Recent advances in measurement and analysis techniques
have prompted new attempts to answer this question using more elaborated procedures (e.g.,
Gattis, Berns, Simpson, & Christensen, 2004; Luo & Klohnen, 2005; Watson et al., 2004).
Despite a growing body of literature on the link between couple similarity and satisfaction,
the evidence is equivocal. Whereas some studies have found that spousal similarity is
associated with greater marital satisfaction (e.g., Blum & Mehrabian, 1999; Caspi &
Herbener, 1990; Robins, Caspi, & Moffitt, 2000; Russell & Wells, 1991), other studies have
failed to find such an association (e.g., Gattis et al., 2004; Glicksohn & Golan, 2001; Watson
et al., 2004). These conflicting results have recently led researchers to conclude that the
available evidence is
inconsistent and difficult to interpret (Watson et al., 2004, p. 1035) and that the association
of similarity and dissimilarity with marital satisfaction is largely unknown (Gattis et al.,
2004, p. 567).
Several flaws have plagued much of the research on the link between couple similarity and
satisfaction. First, most studies on this issue have focused exclusively on similarity in
personality traits (e.g., Gattis et al., 2004; Nemechek & Olson, 1999; Robins et al., 2000).
Although personality traits seem particularly important to overall similarity between partners,
other dimensions (e.g. value priorities, attitudes, religious beliefs) may play an important role
as well.
Moreover, it is plausible that some dimensions of similarity contribute more than others to
explaining marital satisfaction. Second, many studies examining the link between similarity
and satisfaction have been based on relatively small sample sizes (e.g., Glicksohn & Golan,
2001). This fact adds to the interpretative difficulties of the findings.
Dimensions of Similarity Between Partners

As mentioned above, almost all previous studies have focused on the role of personality traits
and have yielded inconsistent results regarding the link between similarity and satisfaction
(e.g., Gattis et al., 2004; Robins et al., 2000). One exception is the recent study by Lou and
Klohnen(2005), in which similarity measures were obtained on values, political attitudes, and
religiosity, as well as on personality domains. On the basis of their findings, these researchers

concluded that whereas similarity on personality domains is associated with marital


satisfaction, similarity on values, attitudes, and religiosity is not.
There are several reasons, however to reexamine this conclusion
empirically. First, the measure of value priorities that served in Lou
and Klohnens study (2005) was a short inventory developed specifically for that study, with
no available reliability and validity indicators. The present study adopts the measure
developed by Schwartz (1992) on the basis of his theory of human values (Schwartz & Bilsky,
1987). This theory suggests that the primary content aspect that differentiates values is the
type of motivational goal they express. As a person attributes greater importance