Thursday, February 23, 2012

Addendum on Prior Post Regarding Marriage and Cohabitation


If you have not yet read the prior note (below), please do so—if you are looking for my chief thoughts on the journal article by Musick and Bumpass. Here, I have a little addendum. In addition to the major points below, it’s also worth keeping in mind that the outcome variables that Musick and Bumpass focused on are related to individual wellbeing; that is to say, variables such as global happiness, self-esteem, and depression. The work is not focusing on relationship quality differences or similarities between marrieds and cohabiters, but how the transition into marriage or cohabitation affects how an individual feels as an individual in the relatively earlier years of such relationships.

Embedded in my major point about children is this very point issue. The focus of the analyses that they conducted—which, I’ll reiterate, seem reasonable to me—is on individual wellbeing. There is a related issue in research that focuses on how the transition to parenthood affects couples. That issue is simply this. Even in that area, where much research does focus on relationship quality, I have a feeling something is missing. What is missing, often in our field, is an assessment of something one might call family happiness and contentment, which goes beyond relationship quality per se, and certainly beyond individual happiness as often conceptualized. This is important, because, like the issue of what advantages children in life, there may be other really important things in all such research that are either not being analyzed or not even being measured.

Now, if you have not read the post below yet, please do. If you want to read more about the whole issue of a concept of family happiness relative to individual or couple happiness, see one of my earlier blog entries HERE, which is one of my favorite all time entries.