Men and marriage

When someone, particularly a man, gets married we often use the phrase that they are “settling down”. So there is an inherent perception that marriage leads to better behaviour. Interestingly, the research backs this up with married men having been shown to be better behaved than unmarried men. The question is; is that because better behaved men are more likely to get married or does marriage really have a “settling” effect? A new study has come up with an answer.

Earlier studies have shown that married men show fewer qualities associated with antisocial personality disorder such as lying, aggression, lack of remorse, and even criminal behaviour. Yet these studies have not answered whether marriage has a reforming quality or if these nasty qualities tend to cause women to shy away.

To investigate this researchers followed 289 pairs of male twins between the ages of seventeen and 29. More than 50 per cent of the twins were identical meaning that they shared all of their genes and most of their childhood environment.

The results showed that the men who married during the study showed less bad behaviour at ages seventeen to twenty. This suggests that “nice boys” are more likely to get married in the first place.

They also found that by age 29 unmarried men had an average of 1.3 antisocial behaviours compared to only 0.8 antisocial behaviours among married men. Additionally among identical twins in which one was married and the other was not the married twin had fewer antisocial behaviours after the marriage than the unmarried twin. This suggests that marriage does have an ameliorating effect on bad behaviour.

So is it that nice men are more likely to get married or does marriage make men nicer? The answer is: it’s a bit of both. Not every man is equally likely to get married but those that do enter marriage are made better by it.

It is not a great stretch to imagine that women are less likely to be drawn to a man who lies, is aggressive and possibly has a criminal record. Marriage itself may settle a man’s worse behaviours because he has more to lose by engaging in bad activities. These explanations are all guesswork but the effect is real. Other research has shown that marriage leads to a 35 per cent reduction in crime. Perhaps persistent offenders should be sentenced to a life of wedded bliss with no time off for good behaviour.

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The WellBeing Team

The WellBeing Team

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