I have been scrutinizing the research on single parents and their children for more than a decade. I’ve learned lots of things, but perhaps the most important one is this: all those predictions you hear about how the children of single parents are doomed are grossly exaggerated or just plain wrong.
Every time I learn about a new claim that getting married makes people happier or healthier or more connected or live longer (and all the rest), I go to the original research report to see what the findings really did say. The media — and sadly, many social scientists — routinely get it wrong. No, getting married does not cause you to become lastingly happier or healthier or better off in any way than if you stayed single (well, you do get more money because of all the laws and practices that benefit married people and discriminate against singles).
Here (below), you can find links to all my critiques of these studies. I’ll keep adding more as new claims hit the media that I need to debunk. I’ve also put together 2 books of my writings explaining why all those Marriage Wins claims are so wrong. Marriage vs. Single Life: How Science and the Media Got It So Wrong includes a chapter previously available only in an expensive edited volume, a new paper that is the most powerful and comprehensive explanation of what the research does and does not show about the implications of getting married, plus 39 other brief chapters (many from my blogs). Because I think that new powerful and comprehensive paper is so important, I have made it into a stand-alone book (together with an introduction) in The Science of Marriage: What We Know That Just Isn’t So. (Both are available both as paperbacks and as ebooks. You can read more about them here.)
“White privilege” and “male privilege” are familiar concepts in our cultural conversations. There is, however, another vast swath of unearned privileges that have gone largely unrecognized, even though they unfairly advantage about half of the adult population in the United States. We’re talking about marital privileges. People who marry enjoy social, cultural, economic, and political advantages that single people do not, simply because they are married.
I’ve just put together a collection of 65 of my writings on single life in a book called The Best of Single Life. I think these are some of my most empowering articles, making a strong positive and utterly undefensive case for single life as the good life. In the book, I explain what I think is best about single life, for those who are as enthusiastic about living single as I am, as well as for those who do not want to stay single, but do want to live their single lives to the fullest while they are single.
- Why Singles Are Thriving – Despite All You’ve Heard to the Contrary
- Single Life: We Chose It
- Mocking Those ‘Why Are You Single’ Lists
- The Good Life and the Successful Life
- Savoring Our Solitude: Choosing to Spend Time Alone
- Valuing Our Relationships: Choosing to Spend Time with Others
- Sex and the Single Person: Have It Your Way – or Just Skip It
- Are We Missing Out by Being Single – or Are They?
Here’s a sampling of some of the 65 articles in the collection:
- 7 secrets of successful single people
- Who wrote the book of love? Happy single people
- Fear not: The advantages of people unafraid to be single
- Are single people more resilient than everyone else?
- Why aren’t married people any happier than singles? A Nobel Prize winner’s answer
- Wedding porn doesn’t turn us on: Age at first marriage has never been higher
- The last ‘why are you single’ list you will ever need
- Elements of the good life: Our list is too short
- Sweet solitude: The benefits it brings and the special strengths of the people who enjoy it
- The happy loner
- Best things about living alone – for people who mean it
- Single, no children: Who’s your family?
- If you are single, will you grow old alone? Results from 6 nations
- Who keeps siblings together when they become adults?
- Bigger, broader meanings of love and romance
- Getting married and getting sex (or not)
- Asexuals: Who are they and why are they important?
- Are monogamous relationships really better?
- 23 ways singles are better
- What you miss by doing what everyone else does
- Top 8 reasons not to marry
- Keeping marriage alive with affairs, asexuality, polyamory, and living apart
- How many married people wish they were single?
- The end of marriage
I hope you enjoy it! (You can find my other books here.)
[Bella’s intro: In Singled Out, I wrote a section called “The Command Team Wears Wedding Bands,” in which I described instances of singlism (stereotyping, stigmatizing, and discrimination against singles) in the military. Retired Navy veteran Roger Morris read the book and got in touch, saying that although he agrees that there is some singlism in the Navy, he also thinks there are important ways in which the Navy is a pretty great place to be single. I invited him to share his views and he did so here and here. Then, just recently, another single sailor got in touch with me about his own experiences and views of singlism in the Navy. I invited him to share his perspective, and that’s what you can read in this post. He wishes not to be identified so I’m just calling him “guest blogger.” Thank-you, guest blogger!
Last January was when I first decided, with lots of input from my agent, on the theme of my new book project. It is about the many creative ways that we are living now that Americans are spending more years of their adult lives unmarried than married, and only about 20 percent of all households are comprised of mom, dad, and the kids. These are huge change from decades past. (See below for more on the theme of the book.)
Among the many myths I busted in Singled Out were the ones that single people are isolated and self-centered. Research on those myths has continued to proliferate, and the results are very consistent. It is single people, more so than married people, who maintain ties with other people and who provide long-term help to people who need it.
Below are links to some of my writings on the topic, other than Singled Out. For most of the articles in which I discussed research findings, I have provided a brief summary.
Mary Edwards says: The women in my family are independent, successful and strong. Every single one of us has a very sarcastic humor and easy going look on life. My sisters and aunts are all married but living a very even partnered marriage. If any of them were to be left by their husbands, I believe they would bounce back into singledom just fine. So naturally, I was shocked when I learned how much my family was concerned about my single status recently. My jaw literally dropped when my aunt told me, ‘You aren’t getting any younger.’
[Bella’s intro: Recently, a retired Navy veteran, Roger Morris, wrote to say that while he believed there was some singlism in the Navy, he also thought there were advantages to being a Navy single. I asked if he would elaborate on his perspective and share his wisdom with “All Things Single (and More)” readers and he very kindly agreed. In fact, he has so much to say that I’m presenting his essay in two parts. This is the first. Many thanks to you, Roger Morris, for the time you took to do this important research and writing. By the way, readers, see all that red on the map image accompanying this post? It shows all the places Roger Morris has been!]