Part 2: Getting Married Makes You Happier? Again, No

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[This post was originally published at Psychology Today. I just discovered that it disappeared! I have no idea why, but I thought I’d just republish it at my own site where I have control over what appears and disappears.]

In my previous post, I explained why no study has ever shown definitively that getting married causes people to become happier – and no study ever will. Here, I will critique the research (an unpublished working paper by Grover and Helliwell) that set off the latest round of matrimaniacal claims that we single people would be happier if only we would get married. The claims the authors are making are unapologetically causal: They think their research shows that getting married causes people to become happier. It doesn’t. The very premise of their claim (that married people are happier, and we just need to figure out if marriage is causing married people’s greater happiness) is undermined by some of their own findings – not that you would have read much about those results in any of the many media stories gleefully declaring a win for Team Marriage.


Single Parents and Their Children: The Good News No One Ever Tells You

cover, single parents bookI 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.


Everything You Think You Know About the Benefits of Marrying Is Wrong: The Evidence

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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.)


Getting Married and (Not) Getting Sex

If you get married, will you get more sex and better sex? So far as I know, a methodologically persuasive study has never been done. That would involve following people over time as they stayed single or got married or got unmarried, and seeing how their sexual behavior and sexual satisfaction changed (or didn’t change) with those transitions. All we have are studies that compare married and single people at one point in time. You can never know from those kinds of studies if any differences really are about being married vs. single or whether they are about any of the many other ways that married and single people differ other than in their marital status. With that qualification, here’s what we know.


Getting Married and (Not) Getting Healthy: What Decades of Research Really Shows

The assumption that if you get married, you will get healthier is so much a part of our conventional wisdom that it is rarely challenged. Back when I was just practicing single life and not studying it, I had no idea that the supposed truism was actually a myth. I figured that out fast, though, once I started going to the original research reports and scrutinizing them. I drew from what I had learned from decades of doing research and teaching graduate courses in research methods, but some of the mental errors in the claims about the research are so egregious that you should not need any formal training to realize how ridiculous they are.