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The proper APA Style reference for this manuscript is:
DAVIDSON, E. C. (2005). Will We Live Happily Ever After? a Study on Happiness and Its Implications. National Undergraduate Research Clearinghouse, 8. Available online at http://www.webclearinghouse.net/volume/. Retrieved September 25, 2023 .

Will We Live Happily Ever After? a Study on Happiness and Its Implications

Sponsored by: Brian Cronk (cronk@missouriwestern.edu)
People get married for many reasons such as financial security, religious beliefs, and to start a family. Studies have shown that married people are generally happier in their everyday life. The more recent studies suggest that happier people tend to get married, making the former statement worthy. It is important that marital happiness is considered because it is the highest indicator of overall general happiness. When people are happier, they are usually healthier. This study looks at whether or not people believe that marriage will make them happy. A random sample of married (men and women) and single (men and women) were asked to rank reasons for getting married on a Likert-type scale. The results showed a significant main effect for marital status. There was a non-significant trend for the interaction between marital status and gender. There was also a non significant main effect for gender.

The construct of marriage has been around for centuries and is a common practice. In recent times, it is also just as common to divorce. It is estimated that nearly two-thirds of new marriages will end in divorce (Martin & Bumpass, 1989, as cited in Heaton & Albrecht, 1991). Divorce does not contain the same perceived barriers as it did in the past, making it an attainable alternative for one who seeks to dissolve their union. There are many who also seek to keep the marriage for its intended purposes: “together as long as you both shall live”. Even though many unhappily married people choose divorce, there are ones who stay in an unhappy union. Some theorists stress that changing their current lifestyle, lack of a better alternative, and the benefits of remaining in the marriage outweigh any other outcome (Albrecht, Bahr, & Goodman, 1983, as cited in Heaton & Albrecht, 1991). . Married person’s outlook on marriage could also be a factor. Men and women also believe that divorce would take away from any happiness (Heaton & Albrecht, 1991). Even if they consider themselves in an unhappy marriage, their pro-marriage attitude prior, may persuade them to stay. Other factors that may deter divorce could be religious beliefs, economic situations, and just not knowing what may happen. These attitudes also may be reasons people marry in the first place. With the knowledge of possible impending doom of divorce, many still try at marriage. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 56.7% of men and 52.1% of women are married (2000). Why? According to most research marriage is still a great source for global, all-around happiness. When marital happiness and other levels of happiness (i.e., work, community) are compared to overall happiness, marital happiness was the greatest indicator of general happiness (Glenn, 1990). Does this mean that married people are happier than their single counterparts? Sort of. Married people are generally happier simply because they were happier to begin with (Stein, Song, & Coady, 2005). So there should be blissful, happy, wedded couples everywhere. However, if the partners believe that the marriage will make them happier, having very high expectations, when they get a big dose of reality, they have the steepest decline in their happiness (Stein, Song, & Coady, 2005). Though the couples will have feelings of elation after the big day, after a year couples will experience a decline in their marriage satisfaction (Glenn, 1990). It is important to note that marital happiness affects one’s general happiness because happy people are healthier, more energized, and have a happier outlook on life (Myers, 2004). Myers also contends that those who value intimate relationships (i.e. marriage) report having more satisfaction in their daily lives, leading to a better quality of life. A high quality of life is a desirable trait and by reaching that goal, one may try the path of marriage for reasons besides happiness. Other factors for getting married could be love, financial security, cultural beliefs, and religious beliefs. As mentioned before, these reasons could also encourage one to maintain a marriage (Heaton & Albrecht, 1991). Knowing that married people are generally happier; do people assume that a marriage will make them happier? If marriage does not make them happier, are they likely to divorce? In this research paper, I will try to determine one of these questions. The purpose of this study is to determine if single people believe that happiness fulfillment is a valid reason for getting married. If it is deemed significant, how high is happiness ranked as a reason to do so.


Data was collected from two general psychology students at Missouri Western State University. There were 102 participants consisting of 69 women and 33 men. Of the 33 men, five were married and 28 were single. Of the 69 women, 12 were married and 57 were single. The ages of the participants ranged from 18 to 44.

A pen and paper survey constructed by the researcher with seven answers to be ranked by the participant was administered. Their age, sex, and marital status was asked. I particularly paid close attention to how participants ranked happiness. See Appendix.

I had the participants answer the survey sheets. After they have answered the sheets, I collected them and filed them in a folder. Participants were given extra credit at the discretion of the professor. The independent variable in this study is the ranking of happiness on the survey sheet while the dependent variables are married men, married women, single men, and single women. Answers were recorded and statistical analyses was conducted.

A 2x2 between subjects factorial ANOVA was calculated examining the effects of gender (female, male), marital status (single, married), on the importance of happiness as a reason to get married. The main effect for gender was not significant (F(1,89) = 2.689, p>.05). A significant main effect for marital status was found (F(1,89) = 5.232, p<.05). Finally, the interaction showed a non-significant trend (F(1,89) =3.498,p=.065. Marital status did affect the way participants ranked happiness on the scale regardless of whether they were male or female. See Figure 1 for a summary of mean scores comparing single (men and women) versus married (men and women).

In this study, it was found that those who were married ranked happiness as a reason to get married lower than their single counterparts. In other words, single participants said that happiness was a more important reason to get married. The study wanted to examine whether single people would rank happiness higher than those who wre already married. This held true. Though the results were found to be not significant, there was still a trend leading towards significance. Overall, women who were married gave happiness an average rating of 3.1818 while single women ranked it higher at 2.0189. The research also supports the previous research mentioned. Stein, Song, and Coady (2005), reiterated that people believe that marriage will make them happier, and when it doesn’t, they experience the steepest declines of overall happiness. Studying overall happiness is important. Overall happiness is a good predictor of one’s health, both mentally and physically, which is a major goal of the social sciences. Since marital happiness is the biggest indicator of general happiness, this phenomenon needs to be studied more in depth. There is little research on why people get married and thousands of articles on reasons why people get divorced. In doing this research, there were some limitations. The sample, though randomly selected, did have more single people versus married which could have had an effect on the results. The survey was also not validated and constructed by the researcher. Since overall health is a main goal for psychologists, marital health could be studied more in depth. Knowing more about why people get married could also help them to stay together. New methods for counseling could be developed that would be more effective in keeping marriages together.

Glenn, N. D. (1990). Quantitative research on marital quality in the 1980’s: A critical review. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 52, 818-831.Heaton, T. B., & Albrecht, S. L. (1991). Stable unhappy marriages. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 53, 747-758.Myers, D. G. (2004). Psychology 7th edition. New York: Worth Publishers.Stein, J., Song, S., & Coady, E. (2005). Is there a hitch? Time, 165(3), 37-40.U. S. Census Bureau (2000). [Electronic version] Retrieved from http://www.census.gov/


Marriage SurveyAge:_____Gender: M or FMarital Status: Single Married Divorced Separated Widowed

Please rank the following reasons for getting married from the list below with 1 being most important to 7 being least important.

Financial Security _____Cultural Beliefs _____Happiness _____Love _____Religious Beliefs _____To start a family _____Other _____

Submitted 12/8/2005 12:44:04 PM
Last Edited 12/8/2005 12:56:38 PM
Converted to New Site 03/09/2009

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