Make your own free website on

Section 3: Singleness
Advanced Psychology Seminar

A. Married first marriage
B. Cohabiting relationship
C. Never married

If you were a landlord, to whom would you most likely choose to rent your house?

Who would you choose as the most likely to be socially immature?

Who would you choose as the most likely to be afraid of commitment?

Who would you choose as the most likely to be self-centered?

Who would you choose as the most likely to be unhappy?

You have a new employer who you discover is 40 years old and has never been married. Does this information make an impression on you? If so, what is that impression?

Paulo and Morris (2005)
Singles in Society and Science

An attempt about starting a conversation about the place of singles in society and how our societal perspective on singles and marriage shapes our research questions, processes, and interpretations.

The Ideology of Marriage and Family

Just about everyone wants to marry, and just about everyone does (90%, in fact).

Sexual partnership is the one truly important peer relationship.

Those who have a sexual partnership are better, more valuable, more worthy, more important. Compared to people who do not have that relationship, they are probably happier, more mature, less lonely, and their lives are probably more meaningful and complete.

Who counts as single?
Stigmatized from the start – defined by who they are not, what they do not have

Legal and bureaucratic distinctions – married vs. never married

Social and personal distinctions – sexual partnership or not?

The Rising Tide of Singles
1970 – 38 million adults who were divorced, widowed, or always single

2002 – 86 million adults who were divorced widowed, or always single (only 11 million were cohabiting)

Adults now spend more of their adult years single than married

Singlism in Society
Are singles the target of negative stereotypes? – college students consistently rated married targets as happier, socially mature, and less likely to have an STD or AIDS.

Harsh judgments of singles: the evidence
Pervasive beliefs; many groups derogate singles
The older the single person, the more negative the beliefs (ex. 40-year Old Virgin)
Divorced perceived as more attractive and sociable but less stable than singles
Even well-liked and accomplished singles were derogated
Singles claims of happiness are not believed by participants.

Singles appear to be rejected interpersonally though more research needed.

Are singles economically disadvantaged and discriminated against?
    Discrimination is legal
    Real-world examples: higher salaries and lower taxes of married
    Experimental evidence: prefer married tenants

Singlism without compunction or awareness
    Perceptions of singles seem unselfconsciously harsh
    Is there any awareness of singles that they are stigmatized? – little, 4 – 30%
    Invisibility – in psychology and politics

Singlism in Science
Seligman’s claim that married people overwhelmingly report being happier.

Longitudinal study: just as many people were less happy after marriage as there were who were more happy

Potential moderators of the link between civil status and well-being
    Gender – women more attuned to relationship quality; women more likely to break up and stay single
    Men have been found to benefit from marriage
    Women have been found to suffer from marriage

Relationship quality: wives found to be linked to very good or very bad outcomes; however, study placed divorced, widowed, and always single into one group, as were all categories of married people.

Potential moderators (cont.)
    Type of civil status
    Social class, income, and wealth
    Race and ethnicity
    Attitudes toward civil status
    Timing of measurements
    Cohort, culture, and context

So why aren’t singles miserable?
Because they DO have relationships that last a lifetime.
    Singles and their siblings
    Singles and their friends
    Singles and adult children – interactions of elderly with friends found to be better predictors of well-being
    Other paths
Why does singlism persist?
Are sexual partners fundamentally important?

Evolutionary perspective

Attachment perspective

The social problems perspective – ‘deviant’ lifestyle

The cult of the couple
    From many adult relationships to just one
    From marriage as economic unit to marriage as companionship and intimacy
    From sexuality in reproduction to sexuality as intimacy
    All-in-one: the common thread
The marriage and family ideology is a cultural worldview – interpersonal versions of the American dream

Adults are “single” because of one thing: they do not have a sexual partnership

    Singlehood should not be equated with living alone or feeling alone
    Being single does not necessarily mean having no sex, having a lot of sex, or having sex with a lot of people
    Being single does not necessarily imply that a person is looking for a mate
    Having a sexual partnership does not mean living alone or feeling alone

Valuing of coupling can be good. We challenge:
    Cultish overvaluing of couples
    Devaluing and dismissing of other important relationships
    Stigmatizing of not coupling

We want a broader and more imaginative science

Singles are stigmatized

Research should reflect these complexities

Importance of relationships other than sexual partnerships and the importance of other life pursuits.

Byrne and Carr (2005)
Is singlehood a stigmatized identity?

The subtle stigma of singlehood: empirical evidence

Why does interpersonal descrimination persist? Cultural lag

Implications and future directions

Discussion Questions
In our last class period, students agreed that marriage is not idealized in current society? Do you still believe this after reading this article? Why or why not?

Critique the argument presented in this article. Do you agree in the proposition that singleness is marginalized and stigmatized? Why or why not?