Springer Nature is making SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

DO PEOPLE REALLY ADAPT TO MARRIAGE?

Abstract

Although cross-sectional studies have shown a reliable association between marital status and subjective well-being, a recent longitudinal study [Lucas et al. 2003, Journal of Personality & Social Psychology 84(3), pp.␣527–539] found no support for the idea that happiness increases after marriage. Instead, participants who got married reported short-term increases followed by complete adaptation back to baseline levels of well-being. However, researchers have criticized this study on two grounds. First, these results contradict cohort-based analyses from a nationally representative sample. Second, these analyses do not control for pre-marriage cohabitation, which could potentially inflate baseline levels of well-being. The original data (plus four additional waves) are reanalyzed to address these concerns. Results confirm that individuals do not get a lasting boost in life satisfaction following marriage.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

References

  1. Brickman P., Coates D., Janoff-Bulman R., (1978). Lottery winners and accident victims: Is happiness relative? Journal of Personality & Social Psychology 36(8): 917–927

  2. Davis, J.A., T.W. Smith and P.V. Marsden: 2003, General Social Surveys, 1972–2002 [Computer File] (Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research, Ann Arbor, MI). Available at: http://webapp.icpsr.umich. edu/GSS/

  3. DePaulo B.M., Morris W.L., (2005). Singles in society and in science Psychological Inquiry 16: 57–83

  4. Diener E., Suh E.M., Lucas R.E., Smith H.L., (1999). Subjective well-being: Three decades of progress Psychological Bulletin 125(2): 276–302

  5. Easterlin R.A., (2003). Explaining happiness Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 100: 11176–11183

  6. Easterlin, R.A.: 2005, ‘Is there an “iron law of happiness”?’ Institute of Economic Policy Research Working Paper (05.8. Retrieved July 15, 2005 from http://econpapers.repec.org/paper/scpwpaper/05-8.htm

  7. Freedman D.A., (2001). Ecological inference and the ecological fallacy In: Smelser N.J., Baltes P.B., (eds), International Encyclopedia for the Social and Behavioral Sciences Vol 6 Elsevier New York, NY pp. 4027–4030

  8. Haisken-De New J.P., Frick R., (2003). Desktop Companion to the German Socio-Economic Panel Study (GSOEP) German Institute for Economic Research (DIW), Berlin

  9. Haring-Hidore M., Stock W.A., Okun M.A., Witter R.A., (1985). Marital status and subjective well-being: A research synthesis Journal of Marriage and the Family 47(4): 947–953

  10. Hope S., Rodgers B., Power C., (1999). Marital status transitions and psychological distress: Longitudinal evidence from a national population sample Psychological Medicine 29(2): 381–389

  11. Inglehart, R.: 2003, World Values Surveys and European Values Surveys, 1981–1984, 1990–1993, and 1995–1997 [Computer File] (Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research, University of Michigan, Ann␣Arbor). Available at: http://webapp.icpsr.umich.edu/cocoon/ICPSR-STUDY/02790.xml

  12. Jocklin V., McGue M., Lykken D.T., (1996). Personality and divorce: A genetic analysis Journal of Personality & Social Psychology 71(2): 288–299

  13. Johnson D.R., Wu J., (2002). An empirical test of crisis, social selection, and role explanations of the relationship between marital disruption and psychological distress: A pooled time-series analysis of four-wave panel data Journal of Marriage & Family 64(1): 211–224

  14. Johnson W., McGue M., Krueger R.F., Bouchard T.J.J., (2004). Marriage and personality: A genetic analysis Journal of Personality & Social Psychology 86(2): 285–294

  15. Lucas, R.E.: 2005, ‘Time does not heal all wounds: A longitudinal study of reaction and adaptation to divorce’, Psychological Science 16, pp. 945–950

  16. Lucas R.E., Clark A.E., Georgellis Y., Diener E., (2003). Reexamining adaptation and the set point model of happiness: Reactions to changes in marital status Journal of Personality & Social Psychology 84(3): 527–539

  17. Lucas R.E., Clark A.E., Georgellis Y., Diener E., (2004). Unemployment alters the set point for life satisfaction Psychological Science 15(1): 8–13

  18. Lucas R.E., Dyrenforth P.E., (2005). The myth of marital bliss? Psychological Inquiry 16: 111–115

  19. Lucas, R.E. and P. Dyrenforth: in press, ‘Social relationships and subjective well being’, in K.D. Vohs and E.J. Finkel (eds), Intrapersonal Processes and Interpersonal Relationships: Two Halves, One Self (Guilford Press, New York)

  20. Lykken D., Tellegen A., (1996). Happiness is a stochastic phenomenon Psychological Science, 7(3): 186–189

  21. Raudenbush S., Bryk A., Congdon R., (2004). HLM 6.0 [Statistical Software] Scientific Software International, Lincolnwood, IL

  22. Rindfuss R.R., (1991). The young adult years: Diversity, structural change, and fertility Demography 28: 493–512

  23. Stutzer, A. and B.S. Frey: In press, ‘Does marriage make people happy, or do happy people get married?’ Journal of Socio-Economics

  24. Waite L.J., (1995). Does marriage matter?Demography 32: 483–507

Download references

Author information

Correspondence to Richard E. Lucas.

Additional information

The data used in this paper were made available by the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW). This research was supported by a grant from the Anthony Marchionne Foundation.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Lucas, R.E., Clark, A.E. DO PEOPLE REALLY ADAPT TO MARRIAGE?. J Happiness Stud 7, 405–426 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-006-9001-x

Download citation

Keywords

  • subjective well being
  • marriage
  • adaptation
  • happiness
  • setpoint theory