Tag Archives: family research

Do Spouses Become More Alike Over Time?

We’ve all seen the pictures of married couples who, like owners and their dogs, begin to look alike over the years. Scary isn’t it? There’s even a prevalent theory out there that if you live with your mate for long enough, you’ll start to act alike and share more common traits. Is this theory true? Not exactly. It seems we tend to pair up with others who have similar fundamental personality traits, but we don’t grow more alike over time.

Psychologists at Michigan State University and the University of Minnesota studied 1,296 couples who were married for an average of 19.8 years. They found that couples who were married as long as 39 years were “no more alike in fundamental personality traits than newlyweds.” For couples who were similar, it was likely due to traits they sought out during courtship, not something that developed over time. Read the study details as reported by ABC News.

The study, published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, focused on 198 factors and personality traits: extroversion/introversion, social disposition, and other aspects, which, unlike hobbies, tend to remain the same during one’s life.

Researchers were surprised at how similar couples were in fundamental personality traits. They surmise that rather than attracting opposites, many of us look for partners who are similar to us. Most couples in the study shared some traits. Regardless of how long a couple was married, researchers didn’t find the similarities diminished or grew over the years—with the exception of one trait, aggression. One partner’s aggressive responses are likely to lead to aggression in the other partner.

So if you are worried about looking and acting more like your spouse every day, fear not, except that aggressive behavior leads to more of the same. While marriage does mean joining two people together, each person gets to retain their individual personality, even after many decades together. The jury is still out, however, on whether you will begin to look more like your dog.

Do you and your partner share many personality traits, or are you rather dissimilar? Read Oh no, I married an extrovert! for my take on personality differences.

Photo ©Cheri/PhotoXpress.com

Divorce Rates Hit Lowest Rate Since Early ’70s

The divorce rate in the U.S. is now at its lowest point since the early 1970s, according to data recently released by the National Center for Health Statistics.  Infidelity rates, marriage and birth rates are also declining.

According to a New York Times analysis, there were approximately 3.4 divorces per 1,000 people in 2009, falling from 3.6 in 2007 and 3.5 in 2008.  Marriages and birth rates also declined. Some say Americans are holding off on these major life changes due to a dismal economy. In 2007, 7.3 marriages per 1,000 people were reported. In 2008, rates fell to 7.1, and in 2009 to 6.8. Read the full report from the Centers for Disease Control.

Americans continue to have the misperception that half of marriages fail. It may even make us feel like the odds of marital success are so high that we can’t be held responsible if we fail. If you’re living in poverty, a teenager, a high school dropout, a person with a lower-than-average IQ (yes, low IQ is a risk factor for divorce), a person on your third or fourth marriage, yes, your odds of marital success are low, and premarital education and skills training are essential. However, the success rate for first-time married college-educated adults (among other groups) is excellent. Prepare and believe in the success of your union, and you will be more likely to succeed.

The problem is that increasingly, young couples don’t feel equipped to enter into marriage, often because of their economic or job situation. Education and income level have a direct impact on family life and marital strength. An interesting article by Andrew Cherlin and Bradford Wilcox called “The Generation that Can’t Move On Up” states:

These working-class couples still value marriage highly. But they don’t think they have what it takes to make a marriage work. Across all social classes, in fact, Americans now believe that a couple isn’t ready to marry until they can count on a steady income. That’s an increasingly high bar for the younger working class. As a result, cohabitation is emerging as the relationship of choice for young adults who have some earnings but not enough steady work to reach the marriage bar.

The problem is that cohabiting relationships don’t go the distance. In fact, children who are born to cohabiting parents are more than twice as likely as children born to married parents to see their parents break up by age five. These break-ups are especially troubling because they are often followed by a relationship-go-round, where children are exposed to a bewildering array of parents’ partners and stepparents entering and exiting their home in succession.

Research points to education playing heavily into the solution of more stable families. While 40 percent of infants today are born to unwed mothers, 90 percent of college-educated women are married when they give birth. College-educated adults don’t learn the key to marital success while studying at a university. Instead, they are more prepared for the job market, and they can often avoid the extreme financial stresses of those without an education…stresses that can cause a marriage to quickly unravel.

Whatever reason the pundits ascribe to the falling divorce rate, I’ll call it good news. As for bridging the economic and educational gap in America, I’m afraid we have a significant distance to go.