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Loneliness And Marriage

One cultural universal found in a multinational study (Stack 1998) was that married men and women are less lonely than their unmarried counterparts. Cohabitation also buffered individuals from loneliness but not as much as marriage. When the unmarried are categorized into subgroups (never married, separated or divorced, widowed), the results vary somewhat by study. The general tendency appears to be for single people to be less lonely than the divorced or widowed (Perlman 1988, Table 3). In at least one Dutch study, single parents were also a group high in loneliness. Overall, loneliness seems to be more a reaction to the loss of a marital relationship rather than a response to its absence.

Differences in loneliness as a function of marital status can be explained either in terms of selection or what marital relationships provide. If selection is operating it means that the people who marry are different and would avoid loneliness even in the absence of getting married. This explanation is difficult to definitively test, although it is challenged to some extent by the relatively low levels of loneliness among never married respondents. The second view implies that the more the marital relationships provide, the less lonely the partners should be. Consistent with this explanation, low marital satisfaction is associated with greater loneliness. Similarly, compared with individuals who confide in their spouses, married individuals who talk most openly about the joys and sorrows of their lives with somebody besides their spouse are more prone to being lonely. One can conclude from the evidence that when marriages are working well, they provide partners with ingredients that buffer them from loneliness.

Additional topics

Marriage and Family EncyclopediaRelationshipsLoneliness - Concept And Prevalence, Loneliness And Marriage, Parents, Children, And Loneliness, Relationship Endings And Loneliness