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Reconceptualizing Marital Status as a Continuum of Social Attachment

Catherine E. Ross
Journal of Marriage and Family
Vol. 57, No. 1 (Feb., 1995), pp. 129-140
DOI: 10.2307/353822
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/353822
Page Count: 12
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Reconceptualizing Marital Status as a Continuum of Social Attachment
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Abstract

This study reconceptualizes marital status as social attachment in order to examine the effect of marital status on well-being. Using data from a national probability sample of 2,031 adults aged 18 to 90, four levels on a continuum of social attachment are compared: no partner, partner outside the household, living with partner in the household, living with married partner in the household. Adjusting for age, sex, and race, results indicate the higher the level of social attachment, the lower the level of psychological distress, although living with a partner and being married are not significantly different. Social attachment, emotional support, and economic support significantly reduce distress and explain the positive effect of being married and the negative effect of being single or divorced on psychological well-being, although recent widows exhibit high levels of distress that are not explained. Although relationships generally improve well-being, unhappy relationships are worse than none at all.

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