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Family and Consumer Sciences

College of Agriculture, Life Sciences and Natural Resources

LIFE - Individual Growth and Development

Reasons Why Marriage is Beneficial

Health

Physical and Mental

  • Married status related to a variety of positive physical and mental health benefits (Waite, 1995)
  • Marital distress related to a variety of mental and physical problems (Cherlin & Furstenberg, 1994; Coie, et al., 1993; Coyne, Kahn, & Gotlib, 1987; Cowan & Cowan, 1992; Fincham, Grych, & Osborne, 1993)
  • Marital disruption most powerful predictor of stress-related physical and emotional illness (Rosen, et al., 1977, cited by Larson, et al., 1995)
Physical
  • Married persons have greater longevity (Lillard & Waite, 1995) (Larson, Swyers, & Larson, 1995: 43-48 note the long history and cultural universality of this phenomenon)
  • Married persons report better physical health, are more actively engaged in monitoring own/partner’s health
  • Non-distressed partners less likely to suffer effects of verbal and physical abuse
Mental
  • Overall well-being rated higher by married persons rated higher by married persons
  • Married persons less likely to be depressed (Coyne, et al. 1987), commit suicide (Stack & Wasserman, 1993), abuse substances (Crum, et al., 1993), engage in criminal activity

Couple Interaction

  • Married people have a more active and satisfying sex life (Waite, 1997)
  • Positive interaction skills and processes have beneficial outcomes; negative interaction patterns have negative outcomes (see Stanley & Markman, 1997)

Economics

Workplace Productivity

  • Marital distress related to lower productivity, job loss (Forthofer, Markman, Cox, Stanley, & Kessler, 1996)
Economic Well-being
  • Married individuals generally have higher incomes/standard of living than singles, esp. those raising children and ethnic minorities (Census Bureau, 1990; Waite, 1997) and married couples save more than singles (Waite, 1995)
Consumer Spending
  • Families with married partners (esp. raising children) have higher disposable income than families headed by single persons (and less likely to be on welfare—see below)

Children

  • Growing up with single parent more highly correlated to poverty (McLanahan & Sanderfur, 1994)…with consequent risks for poverty-related negative outcomes (teen pregnancy, violence and crime involvement, drop-out and lower economic prospects, substance abuse)
  • Effects of conflict, divorce generally increase distress and increase adjustment problems (Cowen & Cowen, 1995)
  • Destructive conflict between parents related to negative effects for children (Gottman, 1994; Markman & Halweg, 1993; Clements, Stanley, & Markman, 1997; Cowan & Cowan, 1992; Grych, & Fincham, 1990)
  • Youth violence and alienation linked to father-absence (divorce, desertion, and non-investment in marriage/family: Blankenhorn, 1995) decrease academic performance, drop-out (McLanahan & Sanderfur, 1994)
  • More often victimized by boyfriends and stepparents than by biological parents
  • More likely to establish stable, satisfying relationships if parent role models had a happy marriage (Glenn & Kramer, 1987)
  • More likely to receive consistent care, with the variety of two healthy parent personalities (Blankenhorn, 1995)

Social

  • Costs of welfare (Bianchi & McArthur, 1991), violence, child non-support, lost productivity and taxable income
  • Benefits of stability not like those of cohabitation (Brown & Booth, 1996)
  • Stable integration into and involvement in neighborhood promotes community solidarity

References

Bianchi, S. & McArthur, E. (1991). Family disruption and economic hardship: The short-run picture for children. U.S. Bureau of the Census, Current Population Reports, Series P-70, No. 23. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

Blankenhorn, D. (1995). Fatherless America. New York: HarperCollins.

Brown, S.L.; & Booth, A. (1996). Cohabitation versus marriage: A comparison of relationship quality. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 58, 668-678.

Cherlin, A.J.; & Furstenberg, F.F., Jr. (1994). Stepfamilies in the United States: A reconsideration. Annual Review of Sociology, 20, 359-381.

Clements, M.; Stanley, S.; & Markman, H.J. (1997). Predicting divorce. Manuscript in preparation, cited by Stanley & Markman, 1997.

Coie, J.; Watt, N.; West, S.G.; Hawkins, J.D.; Asarnow, J.R.; Markman, H.J.; Ramey, S.L.; Shure, M.B.; & Long, B. (1993). The science of prevention: A conceptual framework and some directions for a national research program. American Psychologist, 48, 1013-1022.

Cowan, C.P.; & Cowan, P.A. (1995). Interventions to ease the transition to parenthood: Why they are needed and what they can do. Family Relations, 44, 412-423.

Cowan, C.P.; & Cowan, P.A. (1992). When partners become parents: The big life change for couples. New York: HarperCollins.

Coyne, J.C.; Kahn, J.; & Gotlib, I.H. (1987). Depression. Family interaction and psychopathology: Theories, methods, and findings. New York: Plenum Press.

Crum, R.M.; Helzer, J.E.; & Anthony, J.C. (1993). Level of education and alcohol abuse and dependence into adulthood: A further inquiry. American Journal of Public Health, 83, 830-837.

Fincham, F.; Grych, J.; & Osborne, L. (1993). Interparental conflict and child adjustment: A longitudinal analysis. Paper presented at the biennial meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development, New Orleans, LA.

Forthofer, M.S.; Markman, H.J.; Cox, M.; Stanley, S.; & Kessler, R.C. (1996). Associations between marital distress and work loss in a national sample. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 58, 597-605.

Glenn N.D.; & Kramer, K.B. (1987). The marriages and divorces of the children of divorce. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 49, 811-825.

Gottman, J.M. (1994). Why marriages succeed or fail. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Grych, J.; & Fincham, F.F. (1990). Marital conflict and children’s adjustment. Psychological Bulletin, 108, 267-290.

Larson, D.B.; Swyers, J.P.; & Larson, S.S. (1995). The costly consequences of divorce: Assessing the clinical, economic, and public health impact of marital disruption in the United States. Rockville, MD: National Institute for Healthcare Research.

Lilliard, L.A.; & Waite, L.J. (1995). ‘Til death do us part: Marital disruption and mortality. American Journal of Sociology, 100, 1131-56.

Markman, H.J.; & Hahlweg, K. (1993). The prediction and prevention of marital distress: An international perspective. Clinical Psychology Review, 13, 29-43.

McLanahan, S.; & Sanderfur, G. (1994). Growing up with a single parent: What hurts, what helps. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Rosen, R.; Goldsmith, H.F.; & Rednick, R.W. (1977). Demographic and social indicators from the U.S. Census of Population and Housing: Uses for Mental Health Planning in Small Areas. Rockville, MD: National Institutes of Mental Health, p. 24.

Stack, S. & Wasserman, I. (1993). Marital status, alcohol consumption, and suicide: An analysis of national data. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 55, 1018-1024.

Stanley, S.; & Markman, H.J. (1997). Acting on what we know: The hope of prevention. Paper presented at Family Impact Seminar Roundtable Meeting, Washington, DC, June 23-24, 1997.

U.S. Bureau of the Census. (1990). Money, income, and poverty status in the United States, 1989. Current Population Reports, Series P-60, Number 168. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

Waite, L.J. (1997). Why marriage matters. Paper presented at Family Impact Seminar Roundtable Meeting, Washington, DC, June 23-24, 1997.

Waite, L.J. (1995). Does marriage matter? Demography, 32, (4), 483-507.

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