Happiness and Marriage
- There is a link between happiness and marriage (Bradburn 1969). Bradburn found that 35% of people who were married were happier compared with 18% who'd never married and 7% who were divorced or widowed.
- Wilson and Oswald suggest a number of reasons for this link, such as financial gain and emotional support (reduced stress).
- However the majority of research has been carried out in western societies, therefore results may not apply to collectivist societies (which tend to have more social support)
- Although there is a correlation between marriage and happiness the direction of effect is difficult to establish. Are people happy because they're married or do they marry because they're happy.
- Argyle (1988) found that good, effective social support can absorb some harmful effects of life events.
- The benefits of social support on mental health were investigated by Krause (1987) with retired participants aged 65-95 years. Krause found an increase in social support led to a decrease in depression. This was largely due to the effect of emotional support on feelings of self-worth.
- Krause's research has methodological flaws - self-esteem was only measured at the end of the study, it is possible that people with higher self-esteem are more likely to seek social support. This means that direction of effect is difficult to establish and leads to questioning the validity of the study.
- Kamark et al (1990) gave participants a series of stressful tasks and assessed physiological reaction. Those completing the task with a friend showed lower physical reactions. The buffering effect however only occurs if the relationship between the two is good.
Mental Health Admission
People who are divorced are more likely to suffer mental health problems or commit suicide than people who are married (Argyle 1985).This statement is supported by Cochrane (1988) who looked at mentla health admissions and marital status.
Mental health admission
Cochrane's results show admission is highest for those who are divorced, suprisingly even higher than those who are widowed, and the lowest for those who are married. These show the negative effects of marriage when they breakdown. Direction of effect is again difficult to establish, it could be that these marriages breakdown due to the mental health problems.
- Benefits can also be explored by looking at the effects of divorce or death of a partner on well-being. The breakdown of a relationship can have a negative effect on happiness; this is supported by Veroff et al (1981) who asked people if they were very happy. Veroff found that married men (35%) and married women (41%) were happier and divorced women (15.5%) and single and divorced men (18.5%) were most unhappy.
- Harding (1985) found that married women with children reported negative feelings such as boredom and loneliness.
- Newcomb (1987) conducted a review and found that there was almost nothing published on those that choose to co-habit, it is argued there may be important psychological differences between those who marry and those who co-habit but they are currently unknown.