Flying Solo at Midlife: Gender, Marital Status, and Psychological Well-Being

Marks, Nadine F.
Working paper no. 1995-03


Data from Wisconsin Longitudinal Study 1992-93 respondents (N=6,876) aged 53-54 were used to examine gender and marital status differences across several measures of psychological well-being. Evidence for whether selection and/or social causation might account for differences was also evaluated. Multivariate analyses revealed several gender interactions–usually indicating a greater disadvantage for unmarried men than unmarried women. Separate analyses by gender revealed a complex picture of both positive and negative effects of being single. Contrary to what the selection argument hypothesizes, single women were found to have higher scores on relatively enduring personality characteristics associated with better psychological well-being than married women. Single men did not compare so favorably with married men. Overall, selection did not explain marital status differences. Household income and intimacy accounted for somewhat more of the remaining effects.