Changes in Marital and Partner Relationships in the Aftermath of Hurricane Katrina: An Analysis With Low-Income Women

Sarah R. Lowe, Jean E. Rhodes, Arielle A.J. Scoglio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


Little is known about the impact of natural disasters on marital and partner relationships. In this study, the authors aimed to fill this gap by investigating the changes in such relationships in a sample of 40 low-income, mostly African American women who survived Hurricane Katrina. Through in-depth interviews, participants described how the hurricane affected their intimate relationships. The authors found that, although many participants reported negative changes in their relationships, others reported that their relationships grew stronger, often despite initial strain. As a framework for understanding the processes underlying participants' negative and positive outcomes, the authors drew on the family stress model. Consistent with the model, participants reported that the hurricane led to external stressors, including unemployment and prolonged separations, and that these stressors, in turn, undermined both individual functioning and relational processes (e.g., communication and support). Conversely, participants reporting positive changes experienced new employment opportunities, a greater sense of perspective, and high levels of effective communication and support in their relationships. Based on the findings, policies that reduce the economic strain of low-income families in the aftermath of disasters and empirically supported, culturally sensitive, clinical interventions for individuals and couples are recommended.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)286-300
Number of pages15
JournalPsychology of Women Quarterly
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2012


  • coping behavior
  • natural disasters
  • relationship quality
  • resilience (psychological)
  • socioeconomic status
  • stress


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