Do People Really Adapt to Marriage?
Lucas and Clark (2006)
A past study, finding short-term increases in life satisfaction followed by complete adaptation back to baseline levels of well-being, was challenged due to results conflicting from a previous, cohort-based, analysis.
The past study did not control for pre-marriage cohabitation, which could potentially inflate baseline levels of well-being.
Participants: Data collected from GSOEP, a longitudinal study of private households and individuals living in Germany
2,230 participants were selected who began the study unmarried (NM, W, and D), became married, and remained married until the final wave.
Measures: marital status and life satisfaction (scale of 0 to 10 – from “completely dissatisfied” to “completely satisfied”
Analysis: multi-level strategy, using hierarchical linear modeling, to test within-person trends in satisfaction before and after the event of marriage and whether person-level variables moderate these within-person trends
Participants who will eventually marry report significantly higher scores than the average for the full sample.
Satisfaction scores increase by .23 points in the years surrounding marriage.
Satisfaction scores drop back to baseline in years following the event.
After controlling for cohabitation, adaptation to marriage is, on average, complete.
Age is significantly associated with satisfaction levels
Participants who marry at younger ages, around 21, report non-significantly lower levels of happiness after marriage than they did before marriage.
Participants who marry at a later age, around 38, report significant and lasting increases in happiness after marriage, though small.
Cross-sectional research has suggested that marriage may play a causal role in one’s happiness and life satisfaction.
Longitudinal analyses fail to support this hypothesis. Married individuals return to their pre-marriage baseline levels of satisfaction within a few years.
Those who marry at a later age reported lower levels of initial satisfaction, followed by greater increases in satisfaction.
Only those who marry after their mid-30s reported significant increases in satisfaction, though not large.
Do these results surprise you? Why or why not?
What might be another explanation for the findings in this study?
Why do you believe popular media continues to flood the market with sweeping statements such as Seligman’s, that marriage makes you happier and healthier?
Why do you think the Christian World View promotes marriage as the ideal family form?
After reading this article, do you believe that marriage is idealized in western culture and society? Why or why not?