Getting Married and (Not) Getting Healthy: What Decades of Research Really Shows

The assumption that if you get married, you will get healthier is so much a part of our conventional wisdom that it is rarely challenged. Back when I was just practicing single life and not studying it, I had no idea that the supposed truism was actually a myth. I figured that out fast, though, once I started going to the original research reports and scrutinizing them. I drew from what I had learned from decades of doing research and teaching graduate courses in research methods, but some of the mental errors in the claims about the research are so egregious that you should not need any formal training to realize how ridiculous they are.

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Single People Are Caring, Connected, Attached, and Unselfish

Among the many myths I busted in Singled Out were the ones that single people are isolated and self-centered. Research on those myths has continued to proliferate, and the results are very consistent. It is single people, more so than married people, who maintain ties with other people and who provide long-term help to people who need it.

Below are links to some of my writings on the topic, other than Singled Out. For most of the articles in which I discussed research findings, I have provided a brief summary.

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On Getting Married and (Not) Getting Happier: What We Know

Claims that if only you get married, you will get happier, are ubiquitous. They are also wrong. There are embarrassing methodological flaws that sully many of the studies used as the basis for those claims. Some of the flaws are so fundamental, that any social scientist who does not recognize them should be run out of the field.

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Single Parents and their Children: Don’t Believe the Prophecies of Doom

cover, Single Parents book

In Singled Out, I devoted a chapter to debunking the myth that the children of single parents are doomed. I described various studies and showed how the results are exaggerated or misrepresented. I also reviewed studies inconsistent with the doom-and-gloom narrative; they, unfortunately, get little media attention.

New studies have been published since then, so I have continued to address the topic. There is also lots of panic around single parenting and some overwrought media stories and political proclamations. I’ve critiqued those, too.

In 2015, I put together a collection of my writings in Single Parents and Their Children: The Good News No One Ever Tells You.

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Psychological Inquiry, Double Issue on Singles — Copies Available

In 2005, Wendy Morris and I were invited to write the target article, “Singles in society and in science,” for the journal Psychological Inquiry. This was my very first publication about singles. Ten commentaries were written by scholars in a variety of disciplines, and Wendy and I responded to those commentaries.This double-issue of the journal was the result.

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