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Section 4: Relationship Status
Together is Better?

Advanced Psychology

Soons and Liefbroer (2008)
Are there differences in well-being among young adults who are single, steadily dating, cohabiting-unmarried, and married?

Another purpose of the current study is to contribute to explanation of these differences in well-being.
    Role played by the differential provision of these resources
    Resources are material or non-material
    The greater the access, the higher the well-being

Literature Review
3 broad categories of resources: material, social, and personal

A resource perspective on well-being and partner relationships – the kind and level of resources available to individuals depend on their relationship status.

Resources and partner relationships – authors propose that singles have lower levels of all 3 types of resources compared with partnered individuals.

Living together vs. marriage – those who are married are likely to enjoy more resources in terms of material and social aspects.
    H1: Among young adults, well-being will be highest among those who are married, followed, in order, by cohabiting, steadily dating, and single adults.
    H2: Material, personal, and social resources mediate the effect of relationship status on subjective well-being of single adults

Moderating effects of resources: singles depend more on resources provided by friends, family, and others than partnered
    H3: Material, persona, and social resources play a moderating role in explaining the effect of relationship status on subjective well-being

Gender differences: gender plays a moderating role because men depend more on partner for social support

Sample: data come from the Dutch Panel Study on social integration in the Netherlands

    Well-being: Satisfaction with life Scale (Deiner et al., (1985)

Relationship status
    Material resources: level of education, activity status
    Personal resources: neuroticism, self-esteem scales
    Social resources: emotional support, instrumental support

Other: age, sex, cohort, presence of children, dissolution of past union

    As relationships became closer, subjective well-being increased
    Personal resources: singles have lower self-esteem
    Social resources: singles receive lower levels of emotional and instrumental support

Relationship status and well being
    Life satisfaction of married was significantly higher
    Being male, having children, and having experienced dissolution of previous marriage predicted lower life satisfaction

Mediating effects – resources partially mediate relationship of marital status and well-being
    Satisfaction decreased between married and singles by 32%
    Married and dating by 25%
    Cohabiting and married by 28%

Moderating effects – having neither full-time employment or education related to lower satisfaction to all groups except married

Gender differences – resources explained well-being for men in all categories except single; instrumental support positively related to life satisfaction among cohabiting women only

Marital status is not a good indicator to understanding partner-related differences in well-being among young adults.

Resources explain 25-32% variation in well-being among single, cohabiting, and married; thus effect of relationship status is due to differences in resources, namely material.

For the most part, effect size of resources is independent of relationship status (except not having a partner increases negative effects of neuroticism.


Differential resource availability provides “compelling explanation” for relational status differences in well-being.

Discussion Questions
Critically evaluate this article. What are its strengths and weaknesses? (life-sat scale; assumption of levels of commitment, etc.)

Do the conclusions that married individuals have better well-being than other groups adequately reflect reality, in your opinion? Why or why not?

Are the conclusions consistent with your personal experiences? Why or why not?