Study finds few well-being advantages to marriage over cohabitation

Jan 18, 2012

A new study, published in the Journal of Marriage and Family reveals that married couples experience few advantages for psychological well-being, health, or social ties compared to unmarried couples who live together. While both marriage and cohabitation provide benefits over being single, these reduce over time following a honeymoon period.

" has long been an important social institution, but in recent decades western societies have experienced increases in cohabitation, before or instead of marriage, and increases in children born outside of marriage," said Dr Kelly Musick, Associate Professor of policy analysis and management at Cornell University's College of . "These changes have blurred the boundaries of marriage, leading to questions about what difference marriage makes in comparison to alternatives."

Previous research has sought to prove a link between marriage and well-being, but many studies compared marriage to being single, or compared marriages and cohabitations at a single point in time.

This study compares marriage to cohabitation while using a fixed-effects approach that focuses on what changes when single men and women move into marriage or cohabitation and the extent to which any effects of marriage and cohabitation persist over time.

Dr Musick drew a study sample from the National Survey of Families and Households (NSFH) of 2,737 single men and women, 896 of whom married or moved in with a partner over the course of 6 years. The study focused on key areas of well-being, considering questions on happiness, levels of depression, health, and .

The results showed a spike in well-being immediately following both marriage and cohabitation as couples experienced a honeymoon period with higher levels of happiness and fewer compared to singles. However, these advantages were short lived.

Marriage and cohabitation both resulted in less contact with parents and friends compared to remaining single – and these effects appeared to persist over time.

"We found that differences between marriage and cohabitation tend to be small and dissipate after a honeymoon period. Also while experienced health gains – likely linked to the formal benefits of marriage such as shared healthcare plans – cohabiting couples experienced greater gains in happiness and self-esteem. For some, cohabitation may come with fewer unwanted obligations than marriage and allow for more flexibility, autonomy, and personal growth" said Musick.

"Compared to most industrial countries America continues to value marriage above other family forms," concluded Musick. "However our research shows that marriage is by no means unique in promoting well-being and that other forms of romantic relationships can provide many of the same benefits."

Explore further: A two generation lens: Current state policies fail to support families with young children

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User comments : 8

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kevinrtrs
2 / 5 (7) Jan 18, 2012
Right, so basically this result says that God spoke a lot of hot air in recommending marriage between a man and a woman to be a permanent bond. The article is saying, "Here, look, there's really no reason to get married - living together gives you exactly the same benefits - so why bother?" In effect - "Did God really say....?"
panorama
4.3 / 5 (6) Jan 18, 2012
Ghod's so last century...just like marriage.
dschlink
not rated yet Jan 18, 2012
"honeymoon period""short-lived"
Would be interesting to know the actual time periods. The only time mentioned is the six years of the total study. Odd that having health insurance doesn't contribute to happiness, it's one of the reasons my wife and I got married. She was very unhappy that I didn't have coverage.
ab3a
5 / 5 (1) Jan 19, 2012
This summary of the article makes no mention of the biggest reason why couples get married: to raise children. Is there a difference between families where the parents are married versus families where the parents are not married?
Deathclock
1 / 5 (2) Jan 19, 2012
This summary of the article makes no mention of the biggest reason why couples get married: to raise children. Is there a difference between families where the parents are married versus families where the parents are not married?


Why would there be? What difference do you think a title makes? Whether or not you are considered to be "married" by the state has very little practical impact on your life outside of tax preparation.
roboferret
3.7 / 5 (3) Jan 19, 2012
Right, so basically this result says that God spoke a lot of hot air in recommending marriage between a man and a woman to be a permanent bond. The article is saying, "Here, look, there's really no reason to get married - living together gives you exactly the same benefits - so why bother?" In effect - "Did God really say....?"

Are you saying the data is wrong because you don't like what you think it implies for your religious beliefs? just because 2 plus 2 = 4 makes you feel sad doesn't affect the truth of the matter. The study shows marriage has no advantages over cohabiting, whether this offends your religious views is irrelevant.
kevinrtrs
Jan 21, 2012
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Vendicar_Decarian
1 / 5 (1) Jan 22, 2012
Primitive ideas such as the sky Gawad appeal to small, tired minds and have no place in a modern world.

"What is relevant is that there is a Creator whose commands are being violated by co-habiting." - KevinKook

What does Thor think about marriage Keivin? How about Poseidon or the Easter Bunny?
kochevnik
1 / 5 (1) Jan 22, 2012
What is relevant is that there is a Creator whose commands are being violated by co-habiting.
Sorry to hear you parents don't like your ****buddy, but you know they really aren't in command anymore.