Reexamining the Case for Marriage: Union Formation and Changes in Well-being

“This article addresses open questions about the nature and meaning of the positive association between marriage and well-being, namely, the extent to which it is causal, shared with cohabitation, and stable over time. We relied on data from the National Survey of Families and Households (N = 2,737) and a modeling approach that controls for fixed differences between individuals by relating union transitions to changes in well-being. This study is unique in examining the persistence of changes in wellbeing as marriages and cohabitations progress (and potentially dissolve) over time. The effects of marriage and cohabitation are found to be similar across a range of measures tapping psychological well-being, health, and social ties. Where there are statistically significant differences, marriage is not always more advantageous. Overall, differences tend to be small and appear to dissipate over time, even when the greater instability of cohabitation is taken into account. […]

Examined across a range of outcomes, we found the similarities between marriage and cohabitation to be more striking than the differences: Entering into any union improved psychological well-being and reduced contact with parents and friends. Direct marriage and marriage preceded by cohabitation were statistically indistinguishable in all outcomes examined, providing no evidence that premarital cohabitation has negative consequences for wellbeing or ties to family and friends. When union dissolutions were excluded from the analysis, there were no statistically significant differences between the married and cohabiting for depression, relationships with parents, contact with parents, or time with friends. […] The married fared better in health than cohabitors, but the opposite was true of happiness and self-esteem. […]

We found no evidence that marriage and cohabitation provide benefits over being single in the realm of social ties; indeed, entering into a union reduced contact with parents and social evenings with friends. In some ways, of course, it is not surprising that forming a coresidential relationship reduces time with others, as partners spend time together that cannot be spent elsewhere. These findings do not, however, support arguments in the literature that marriage expands social circles and does so to a greater extent than cohabitation (e.g., Nock, 1995). Our results are more consistent with Sarkisian and Gerstel’s (2008) assessment of marriage as a ‘‘greedy’’ institution — and suggest the same of cohabitation. […] We found no change over time in the effects of marriage and cohabitation on ties with family and friends, suggesting that these ties do not rebound in the years following marriage or cohabitation.”

With as many as half of all marriages ending in divorce or separation (Goldstein, 1999; Raley & Bumpass, 2003), marriage is as likely to be temporary as it is to be a lifetime relationship.”

Here’s the link.


January 24, 2012 - Posted by | marriage, Studies

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