Title

An Investigation of the “Happiness Gap” between Married and Cohabiting Couples in the US

Proposal Focus

Research

Abstract

Previous research has indicated that married persons report experiencing greater happiness than cohabitating persons (e.g., Stack & Eshleman, 1998). Lee and Ono (2012) conducted a cross-national analysis to compare overall happiness between married and cohabiting couples in different cultural contexts and found the "happiness gap" increased as society became less gender-egalitarian and as the role of religion increased. The current study sought to consider how race and ethnicity might serve as a cultural context within the United States (US) by investigating the differences in relationship satisfaction between married and cohabiting couples by testing two hypotheses. First, it was expected that married couples would have higher relationship satisfaction than cohabitating couples. Secondly, it was expected that the effect of marital status on relationship satisfaction would vary with race/ethnicity.

To address these hypotheses, data was taken from the Married and Cohabitating Couples dataset from the National Center for Family & Marriage Research (NCFMR). The data set includes information from 752 married and 323 cohabitating heterosexual couples, from18-64 years of age. Of these individuals, 80.5% were White/Non-Hispanic, 5.0% Black/Non-Hispanic, 4.9% Other/Non-Hispanic, 7.8% Hispanic, and 1.8% 2+Races/Non-Hispanic. A single survey item from the NCFMR study served as the dependent variable in the present study. Participants were asked: "To what extent do you agree with the following statement: Our relationship has changed for the worse”. This item was intended as a measure of relationship satisfaction by determining the relationship between the responses to this item and responses to demographic items about race/ethnicity and marital status.

A two way, independent ANOVA analysis found a non-significant main effect of marital status on the respondents’ view of the relationship, F(1, 2070) = .564, p = .453, = 0, a non-significant main effect of race/ethnicity on the respondents view of the relationship, F(4, 2070) = .984, p = .415, = 0 , and a significant interaction between marital status and race/ethnicity, F( 4, 2070) = 2.582. p = .036, = .003. A simple effects analysis was conducted and among White, non-Hispanic respondents, the view of the relationship was more negative among the cohabitating group than among the married group (p < 0.01). However, the view of the relationship was similar for married and cohabitating couples among Black, non-Hispanic (p = .279), Other non-Hispanic (p = .836), Hispanic (p = .533), and 2+Races, non-Hispanic (p = .127).

The findings suggest there is no difference between married and cohabitating couple's relationship satisfaction. However, there was a statistically significant difference in relationship satisfaction between married and cohabitating couples in the White, non-Hispanic group but not in the other racial and ethnic groups. The findings of this study should be interpreted with caution as there was a large difference in sample size among the racial and ethnicity groups, decreasing the reliability of the results. Understanding how marital status and race/ethnicity influence relationship satisfaction has important practical implications for relationship education programs such as ensuring that content presented is culturally relevant to diverse groups. Additional limitations and implications will be addressed in the presentation.

Keywords

cohabitation, marriage, relationship satisfaction, “happiness gap”

Location

Tiger I

Start Date

9-3-2018 11:30 AM

End Date

9-3-2018 1:30 PM

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Mar 9th, 11:30 AM Mar 9th, 1:30 PM

An Investigation of the “Happiness Gap” between Married and Cohabiting Couples in the US

Tiger I

Previous research has indicated that married persons report experiencing greater happiness than cohabitating persons (e.g., Stack & Eshleman, 1998). Lee and Ono (2012) conducted a cross-national analysis to compare overall happiness between married and cohabiting couples in different cultural contexts and found the "happiness gap" increased as society became less gender-egalitarian and as the role of religion increased. The current study sought to consider how race and ethnicity might serve as a cultural context within the United States (US) by investigating the differences in relationship satisfaction between married and cohabiting couples by testing two hypotheses. First, it was expected that married couples would have higher relationship satisfaction than cohabitating couples. Secondly, it was expected that the effect of marital status on relationship satisfaction would vary with race/ethnicity.

To address these hypotheses, data was taken from the Married and Cohabitating Couples dataset from the National Center for Family & Marriage Research (NCFMR). The data set includes information from 752 married and 323 cohabitating heterosexual couples, from18-64 years of age. Of these individuals, 80.5% were White/Non-Hispanic, 5.0% Black/Non-Hispanic, 4.9% Other/Non-Hispanic, 7.8% Hispanic, and 1.8% 2+Races/Non-Hispanic. A single survey item from the NCFMR study served as the dependent variable in the present study. Participants were asked: "To what extent do you agree with the following statement: Our relationship has changed for the worse”. This item was intended as a measure of relationship satisfaction by determining the relationship between the responses to this item and responses to demographic items about race/ethnicity and marital status.

A two way, independent ANOVA analysis found a non-significant main effect of marital status on the respondents’ view of the relationship, F(1, 2070) = .564, p = .453, = 0, a non-significant main effect of race/ethnicity on the respondents view of the relationship, F(4, 2070) = .984, p = .415, = 0 , and a significant interaction between marital status and race/ethnicity, F( 4, 2070) = 2.582. p = .036, = .003. A simple effects analysis was conducted and among White, non-Hispanic respondents, the view of the relationship was more negative among the cohabitating group than among the married group (p < 0.01). However, the view of the relationship was similar for married and cohabitating couples among Black, non-Hispanic (p = .279), Other non-Hispanic (p = .836), Hispanic (p = .533), and 2+Races, non-Hispanic (p = .127).

The findings suggest there is no difference between married and cohabitating couple's relationship satisfaction. However, there was a statistically significant difference in relationship satisfaction between married and cohabitating couples in the White, non-Hispanic group but not in the other racial and ethnic groups. The findings of this study should be interpreted with caution as there was a large difference in sample size among the racial and ethnicity groups, decreasing the reliability of the results. Understanding how marital status and race/ethnicity influence relationship satisfaction has important practical implications for relationship education programs such as ensuring that content presented is culturally relevant to diverse groups. Additional limitations and implications will be addressed in the presentation.