The Happiest Wives

According to a study done by two sociology profs at the University of Virginia, the following are most closely correlated with happiness of wives:

A husband’s emotional engagement.

They write: “Women who think that housework (and other family responsibilities) are divided fairly are significantly happier than women who think that their husband does not do his fair share. Note, however, that most wives do not equate fairness with a 50-50 model of equality.”

A breadwinning husband.
They say: “American wives, even wives who hold more feminist views about working women and the division of household tasks, are typically happier when their husband earns 68% or more of the household income.”

A commitment to marriage.
They note: “Wives who share a strong commitment to the norm of lifelong marriage with their husband—e.g., who both believe that even unhappily married couples should stay together for the sake of their children—are more likely to have a happy marriage than couples who do not share this commitment to marriage.”

Staying at home.
By which they mean: the wife doesn’t work. They note that this is particularly true for women with children.

Shared religious attendance.

Traditional gender attitudes.
Their comment: “Wives who hold more traditional gender attitudes—e.g., who believe that wives should focus more on nurturing/homemaking and husbands should focus more on breadwinning—are happier than wives who hold more feminist attitudes.”

(The list is in order of importance. Unfortunately, the full text of the article is not yet available online, so I can’t comment on the study itself or any methodological blunders they may have made.)


56 comments for “The Happiest Wives

  1. Kristine Haglund Harris
    November 25, 2006 at 1:53 pm

    Well, that’s one way to drive traffic on a Saturday, Julie :)

  2. Julie M. Smith
    November 25, 2006 at 1:56 pm

    Not if that is your only comment, Kristine.

  3. November 25, 2006 at 2:16 pm

    Well, speaking as an expert (i.e., as someone with zero personal experience), those factors all mesh with my idealized, fantasy picture of marriage. Not the full list, obviously, but definitely compatible. Companionship, common goals, relief from the burdens of the marketplace replaced by time and strength for more rewarding activities like family and homemaking and personal development … yeah, that sounds nice. Really nice. But what do I know?

  4. ECS
    November 25, 2006 at 2:20 pm

    Interesting. Is this post related to your recent comment at Z’s Daughters?

    Firstly, I’d like to know whether the husbands in this study subscribe to “traditional gender attitudes”.

    Secondly, the “Fairness” and “Traditional gender attitudes” factors seem to contradict each other. The study says that wives are happier when their husbands perform their “fair share” of the domestic responsibilties. According to “traditional gender attitudes”, however, husbands perform very little, if any, domestic responsibilities.

    Thirdly, women who work outside the home are typically responsible for more of the domestic duties than their husbands. Traditional gender attitudes tend to undermine working women in this context, because their husbands do not increase the time spent tending to domestic responsibilities to compensate for the time their wives spend at work.

    Finally, income needs to be factored into this study. I can’t imagine many wives who have no money to pay for babysitters or to help with domestic responsibilities are particularly happy at home.

  5. ECS
    November 25, 2006 at 2:29 pm

    A-ha! I read the study more closely, and found this gem:

    “One reason this may be the case is that traditional-minded wives probably have lower expectations of what their husbands can and should do for them emotionally and practically. We also find that more traditional-minded wives spend more quality time with their husbands, perhaps because they are less likely to argue with their husbands about housework and childcare.”

    Of COURSE traditional-minded wives are going to be happier than “feminist” minded wives, because traditional-minded wives have accepted their position and are happy with whatever domestic contributions from the husband they get – instead of those bossy “feminists”, who argue nag their husbands to get their butts off the couch and mow the lawn/do the laundry/put the kids to bed. :)

  6. Sarah
    November 25, 2006 at 3:11 pm

    I kind of have a specific picture in my head of “traditional gender roles” in a marriage/family, which does call for a very high degree of parity and “equality,” i.e.:

    Dad takes care of:
    — either taking the trash to the curb or telling the kids to do it.
    — killing or otherwise handling nearly all vermin.
    — mowing the lawn or getting an appropriately older kid to do it.
    — supervising auto maintenance & large home improvement projects.
    — distributing allowances.
    — building and moving around furniture.
    — making sure the boys don’t become misogynist pigs, and possibly know how to skin an animal and roast it if necessary (i.e. in a survival situation).
    — making sure the girls know that they’re not to let boys push them around, and stepping in physically in dangerous situations if necessary.

    Mom takes care of:
    — laundry & sewing, or at least the supervision thereof.
    — doing the majority of non-special-occasion cooking, and teaching the kids how to do it.
    — supervising kitchen projects and interior decorating.
    — making sure the kids do things like wash their hands before every meal, have brushed hair before going out, and are wearing clothes of approximately the right size.
    — supervising interior maintenance (i.e. vacuuming, dusting, etc.) projects.
    — making sure the boys know exactly how stupid and hurtful it is for someone’s sons to become misogynist pigs, and incidentally not freaking out when they skin and roast animals in a socially appropriate context.
    — communicating clearly to the girls how completely sub-par abusive relationships are.

    There are all kinds of things that I think that either mom or dad would do without regard to anything other than personal preference & whoever’s there at the time (reading bedtime stories, making sure the kids are up to speed in various academic subjects, telling the kids to turn off the TV and go to bed) and there are miscellaneous things that are sort of gendered, but that I can see negotiating (I could actually negotiate almost anything from the above lists, other than the vermin and the car maintenance, but they seem pretty fixed — I’m talking here about things like helping a kid practice for a sport [kind of a dad thing], building a tree house [kind of a dad thing], going shopping for food or doing the family budget [kind of a mom thing], which could be easily swapped without it seeming odd to anyone, I think.)

    And there are a lot of things that I think are definitely the responsibility of both parents at once — both Mom and Dad should call kids on swearing, make sure the kids are saying their prayers, and take care of whichever disciplinary crisis is occurring at the moment (I just don’t see a good side to “wait till your father/mother comes home/hears about this.) I think these sorts of roles should be actively and deliberately engendered whenever possible, because prayer shouldn’t become a “girl thing,” swearing shouldn’t be something you can only do when a particular parent isn’t around, and kids shouldn’t fear Dad (or Mom) and love the other, because said person lets them get away with murder. Lots of things in the “special talk” category come into play here, as does the entire “spending quality time” category (which may necessitate more karate/soccer attendance by Mom, and ballet attendance by Dad, than either is strictly speaking pleased by.)

    Half of why I’m okay with traditional gender roles is that I don’t think it matters too much for boys to, say, associate sewing, at least a little bit, with “girliness.” I mean, it’s not like I’m going to let them not sew their own boy scout patches on, but it’s no big deal that most men don’t consider sewing to be a hobby. It is similarly okay if everyone knows that Mom is easily grossed out by vermin and smelly garbage, and so she and Dad have a nice arrangement in which he doesn’t force her to repeatedly expose herself to it (and in exchange, he gets a pass on folding towels.) In my case, I also tend to break mechanical doo-dads (and got the lowest ASVAB “auto mechanics” score the recruiters had ever seen — my score would have been much higher if I’d just randomly guessed at all the questions.) It’d be an exercise in futility for all concerned if I tried to do half the auto work necessary — it’d all have to be redone later.

    I incidentally don’t freak out if Mom wants to take out the garbage and Dad cooks breakfast every morning before school. I wouldn’t be likely to put myself in that situation (I really hate garbage, to the point of walking outside to throw things away just so it won’t be in the house at all) but it’s only very slightly “untraditional,” to the point of the distinction being meaningless.

    (and the guys I’ve broken up with have all flunked on one or more of the standards listed in the top post, most notably “Shared religious attendance.” Though one was dangerously close to a potential flake-out on “A breadwinning husband;” he was really hoping for a shot at a career that consisted of staying home and playing video games for almost no pay.)

  7. Kevin Barney
    November 25, 2006 at 4:01 pm

    After Ann Landers died, the Chicago Tribune hired a terrific advice columnist, Amy Dickinson (a descendant of Emily, BTW), who in my judgment is way, way better than Pauline Philips (Dear Abby). “Ask Amy” is syndicated now, so perhaps some of you read her.

    Anyway, Amy has run a bunch of letters on the allocation of household chores between men and women. A recurrent theme in many of the letters is that some women have such high standards for how various chores get done (loading the dishwasher, folding the laundry, etc.), and their husbands consistently fail their standards, that they prefer just to do the chores themselves to make sure they are done right. And of course some men take advantage of this tendency by passive-aggressively doing a poor job when they help with domestic chores to encourage their wives to cut them loose and give them a pass.

    Sometimes it works the other way around. The last letter in the series I read was a case where a husband disapproved of the way his wife cooked and was hypercritical, and as a result he took over all the cooking and has been doing it for many years now.

  8. Beijing
    November 25, 2006 at 5:17 pm

    Perhaps the study was done by written survey, which the traditional wives’ husbands filled out for them?

    (tee hee. kidding.)

  9. Julie M. Smith
    November 25, 2006 at 5:57 pm

    “Is this post related to your recent comment at Z’s Daughters?”

    Not deliberately.

    “Secondly, the “Fairness” and “Traditional gender attitudes” factors seem to contradict each other.”

    I believe they are defining ‘traditional gender attitudes’ as ‘mother raises kids, dad raises money’ which still allows for dad to do lots and lots around the house.

    “I can’t imagine many wives who have no money to pay for babysitters or to help with domestic responsibilities are particularly happy at home.”

    I can. I have been one. I know lots of other women who have. In short, your statement is completely unsupported by the real lives of women I have known.

    haha, Beijing.

  10. Elisabeth
    November 25, 2006 at 6:02 pm

    Julie, you forgot the beginning of my statement. Are you saying income has no effect on the happiness of stay-at-home mothers?

  11. Julie M. Smith
    November 25, 2006 at 6:09 pm

    Elisabeth, since I haven’t seen the original study, I have no idea if they checked for a correlation between income and happiness and whether they found one or not. If that was your main point, then I think your examples could have been better chosen: I would think income would affect happiness in such matters as ability to afford health care, adequate housing, job security, etc., far more than ability to afford babysitting (full disclosure: I’ve never paid anyone to sit on my babies, but I get a LOT of time away from them because I swap with others, so I don’t see ability to pay for babysitting as very important at all) or “domestic responsibilities,” perhaps because I literally don’t know anyone who pays for maid service, but I know lots of happy wives.

  12. Elisabeth
    November 25, 2006 at 6:19 pm

    Julie, extrapolating from individual experience is always tricky, but suffice it to say my experience has been that stay-at-home mothers who do not have disposable income to take a break from their children to do what they enjoy doing are less happy than women who have sufficient disposable income to go shopping, to the gym, get their hair done, etc. Congratulations on having such ideal circumstances for child care, but I know many women who don’t enjoy those options. Of course, the only stay-at-home mothers I know well are LDS living outside Utah, so my personal experience is further limited.

  13. Julie M. Smith
    November 25, 2006 at 6:28 pm

    Elisabeth, I find putting the phrase “go to the gym” and “do what they enjoy doing” in the same sentence to be morally problematic :). (I’ll try not to pounce on your other examples, but let’s just say that shopping and getting my hair done aren’t real high on my list either.)

    I don’t disagree with you that it would only seem logical that women with more discretionary income would be happier than those without it–I think the only question is how important it is. I hope that the full study comes online soon and then we could determine if they checked for this and how important it was. I think we got sidetracked here because you gave child care and domestic help as strongly-worded examples of necessities for happiness but virtually every woman I know seems fine without putting money toward those things. Your phrasing (“I can’t imagine many wives who have no money to pay for babysitters or to help with domestic responsibilities are particularly happy at home.”) seemed very absolutist and just not at all in line with my experience or that of women I know–women who use discretionary money to, say, go out to dinner with friends or buy a book or take a small trip–but don’t pay for maid service or child care. Again, if your real point was that money can buy happiness, I don’t disagree (I just wonder how big a factor it is related to the other items on the list); I just dispute the purchased items that you listed as necessary for happiness.

  14. Elisabeth
    November 25, 2006 at 6:50 pm

    Julie, our personal experiences show that we run in different social circles, and thus you’re quite free to disagree with my examples based upon your own personal experiences. But since we don’t have access to the methodology upon which the study is based, and since the ensuing conversation on this post seems to be more about sharing perspectives and examples, I find it odd that you are so quick to dismiss my experiences to emphasize yours.

    In any event, many factors contribute to a married woman’s happiness – including available child care options and help with domestic responsibilities. Some women do not have free child care available, and I’d wager a guess that others would rather pay someone to clean the toilets than buy a book. If a woman has very little discretionary income, then she can’t choose to do any of these.

    I don’t believe money can buy happiness, but money does make life easier (and not just for stay-at-home moms, either :)

  15. Mathew
    November 25, 2006 at 6:54 pm

    I would be interested to know the degree of importance women place on the items on the list–not just whether the first item is more important than the third item, but how much more important. I would think that the first two items are more important than anything else by a large margin.

  16. Julie M. Smith
    November 25, 2006 at 7:00 pm

    “I find it odd that you are so quick to dismiss my experiences to emphasize yours.”

    When you formulate your experiences in such an absolutist way (“I can’t imagine many wives who have no money to pay for babysitters or to help with domestic responsibilities are particularly happy at home.”) and in a way that has no resonance with many woman I’ve known, I absolutely will dispute what you say–not that it doesn’t apply to some women, but it clearly doesn’t apply to all women. Again, I’m not disputing that discretionary income is helpful to mothers–I’m just amazed that you would presume to know how women would need to spend that money in order to find happiness. I’d be curious to hear a little more about what social circles you travel in where the mothers are so uniform in their desires and choices.

  17. Elisabeth
    November 25, 2006 at 7:10 pm

    LOL – Julie. What is this, the battle of personal experiences? Two common complaints I’ve heard SAHMs lament are: (1) I don’t get enough time to myself and (2) my house is a mess all the time. Women who have money to pay babysitters and to help with household chores don’t complain about these things. Babysitting and clean houses are not the only concerns married women have, of course. The fact that you don’t like going to the gym or that you don’t particularly care one way or another whether you get your hair done doesn’t resonate at all with many women I have known, either.

  18. Melinda
    November 25, 2006 at 7:37 pm

    I thought the first point, “a husband’s emotional engagement” summed up a lot of happiness. In my career, I saw quite a few men who enjoyed working late, even if the issue wasn’t particularly pressing or important. It was almost like they liked their career more than the liked going home to their family. I think it would hurt a lot if the munchkin and I took a backseat to my husband’s career. He has a good job; he enjoys it; he works hard at it. But I know that he likes to come home more than he likes to work late. Because I know that, I don’t mind a bit when he does have to work late. I know where his heart is, and I know he’s working late only because he’s a good man who does good work.

    I’m a SAHM, and I have traditional attitudes about housework and stuff. I figure if he’s going to earn the money, then part of my job is to get dinner on the table every day. I don’t particularly enjoy cooking, but there are parts of his job that my husband doesn’t enjoy and he does them anyway too. He helps out when I need it.

    And the conversation between Julie and Elisabeth was fun to read. I share Julie’s perspective more than Elisabeth’s. My hair is growing out because I can’t afford the $60 haircuts I liked when I was working. My sister and I swap free babysitting. We do have enough that I can afford lunch out every so often with friends. Baby comes along.

    Elisabeth asked, “and I’d wager a guess that others would rather pay someone to clean the toilets than buy a book.” I’d buy the book every time! I dislike cleaning toilets, but I’d save the money and buy the book.

    #15 (Matthew) – my most important items on those list are the emotional engagement, and commitment to marriage. Feeling secure that my husband isn’t going to consider taking off if the going gets rough contributes the most to my peace of mind, and hence, to my happiness. The other stuff, like who earns the money, who does the housework, gender attitudes, is all negotiable. As long as I know he plans on working on this relationship for the rest of our lives, I can be happy.

  19. ECS
    November 25, 2006 at 7:38 pm

    Incidentally, I appreciate Kevin Barney’s point about women having higher standards than men in performing domestic tasks.

  20. ECS
    November 25, 2006 at 7:41 pm

    Oops, I submitted my comment too soon. I meant to cite to this article about “maternal gatekeeping” – where mothers/wives undermine a father’s efforts to become more involved with his children:

    “Because men are still newcomers to some aspects of childrearing, they have a tendency to defer to women as the experts. It’s important that fathers get positive feedback about their parenting efforts so they’ll continue to do them,” he said.

    If, for example, a father gets a toddler ready for preschool and Mom notices that the child’s buttoned up wrong, she can signal her impatience and rebutton the shirt herself, or she can say, “This happens to me too when Frannie won’t stand still. Let me show you something that helps me get her dressed when she’s really antsy.”

  21. ECS
    November 25, 2006 at 7:47 pm

    Wow – it has been so long since I posted on T&S that I’m having problems remembering who I am or how to work the “Submit Comment” button :)

    Anyway, I meant to say that I appreciate Kevin’s comment about what might be also called “maternal gatekeeping”. Which is how many women undermine their husband’s efforts to become more involved with childrearing and household tasks.

    Interesting article about the “maternal gatekeeping” phenomenon:

    “Current fathers are quick to say that parenting is an important piece of who they are. Twenty to forty years ago, fathers were much more likely to identify primarily as workers or to see fatherhood more in terms of breadwinning, McBride said.

    “Because men are still newcomers to some aspects of childrearing, they have a tendency to defer to women as the experts. It’s important that fathers get positive feedback about their parenting efforts so they’ll continue to do them,” he said.

    If, for example, a father gets a toddler ready for preschool and Mom notices that the child’s buttoned up wrong, she can signal her impatience and rebutton the shirt herself, or she can say, “This happens to me too when Frannie won’t stand still. Let me show you something that helps me get her dressed when she’s really antsy.”

  22. November 25, 2006 at 8:19 pm

    Someone got paid to do this study?

  23. queuno
    November 25, 2006 at 8:42 pm

    The authors of the study are two guys — not a working woman with children.

  24. Julie M. Smith
    November 25, 2006 at 8:46 pm

    queuno, is your position that “two guys” can’t conduct research on women?

  25. Husband In Happy Valley
    November 25, 2006 at 9:16 pm

    i\’m positive that the \”two guys\” would could to a different conclusion if they studied the provo valley \”LDS housewives\” and their way-above average appetitte for prozac.

  26. November 25, 2006 at 10:20 pm

    I’d be most interested in the *ages* of the respondants. Mix women of two or three generations and you’d likely get an uneven picture of trends in marital happiness. I’m thinking, for example, of Christine Whelan’s new book (Why Smart Men Marry Smart Women). She writes (in the WSJ):

    Marriage rates are increasing among college-educated men and women, even if the marriage age is older: According to the 2006 Current Population Survey data, among 35- to 39-year-old women, 88% with advanced degrees have married, compared with 81% of women without college degrees.

    Increased education leads to better marriages and stronger families. College graduates are less likely to divorce – and more specifically, families with highly educated mothers are half as likely to split, according to an upcoming article in Demographic Research by Steven P. Martin, a professor of sociology at the University of Maryland. Looking at marriages that began between 1990 and 1994, Mr. Martin found that, of marriages in which the wife had a college education (or more), only 16.5% dissolved in the first 10 years, compared with 38% in which the wife had only a high-school diploma.

    In a Harris Interactive poll that I commissioned earlier this year on this topic, 71% of men who earn in the top 10% for their age groups, or who have a graduate degree, said that a woman’s career or educational success makes her more desirable as a wife, and 68% believe that smart women make better mothers. Not surprisingly, then, 90% of high-achieving men say that they want to marry – or have already married – a woman who is as intelligent as they are, or more intelligent.

    Nothing here about “happiness,” but maybe of shifting winds of expectation . . .

  27. DKL
    November 25, 2006 at 10:52 pm

    I’m curious to know how many of the wives here who are complaining about this study are happy in their own marriage?

    I also wonder if happiness of husbands is at all correlated to happiness of wives.

  28. jjohnsen
    November 25, 2006 at 10:57 pm

    A recurrent theme in many of the letters is that some women have such high standards for how various chores get done (loading the dishwasher, folding the laundry, etc.), and their husbands consistently fail their standards, that they prefer just to do the chores themselves to make sure they are done right.

    We had a lesson in Elders Quorum once that went downhill into a discussion of what men knew their wives chore standards, and how they used it to their advantage. It was depressing.

    Mine wasn’t a way to get out of work, it’s honestly not getting it. I can do dishes, fold laundry, wash bathtubs, etc. But no matter how hard I try, my vacuuming skills are not up to par. Even if I offer my wife won’t let me do it.

    Cooking is just the opposite, thankfully she let me take it over. I don’t think I could have lived much longer on spaghetti three times a week.

  29. queuno
    November 25, 2006 at 10:59 pm

    Julie M. Smith – I don’t think it diminishes it in the least. Just making an observation.

    I got an email about this exact study from a friend who is part of “Big Feminism”, and she was trying to attack the study based on the gender of the authors. Yes, it’s an incredibly stupid attack. But if it had been me, I would have tried to cosmetically spackle over it by including a woman.

    It’s like when someone from the Right complains about media bias. We all yawn, but it’s *obvious* boilerplate criticism. We take a little more notice when someone from the Left admits to left-leaning media bias. So it would be a little more “interesting” if a woman would have been included in the authorship of a study on what makes wives happy.

    It’s like men commenting on whether or not women should have an epidural…

  30. m&m
    November 25, 2006 at 11:37 pm

    I’d wager a guess that others would rather pay someone to clean the toilets than buy a book.

    I actually hate having people in my house cleaning, so I’d opt for the book. :)

  31. Karen
    November 25, 2006 at 11:55 pm

    I’d take the book! (I consider myself a happy wife and I clean my own house. And when I pay a babysitter to get away it is usually on a date with my spouse, not to get my hair done)

  32. November 26, 2006 at 12:09 am

    I was able to get a pdf copy of the article through BYU’s website. If you send me an email, I’ll email you the article: [email protected] (delete all CAP letters, so my email is rcouch at…).

    Hopefully Julie will give a more careful review of the article after she reads it. Real quick, glancing at the charts, I think the data is basically saying that wives who are emotionally happy with their husbands are happy (a bit tautological, which means there are endogeneity problems in econometrics parlance…)–the R-squared goes from 8% to 53% when emotional factors are included. The only two variables they remain significant after the emotional work variables are included is race (blacks are less happy, and Hispanics to a lesser extent) and proportion of income earned by the wife (negative relationship to happiness as discussed above). This last result does seem quite interesting and robust.

    Oh, and yes, there’s a control for income, and it’s slightly negative, not statistically significant. The authors, however, do not consider non-linear income effects and I believe others have shown that income at the very high end is negatively related to happiness–being middle and upper-middle class seems to afford the most happiness, if I’m remembering correctly….

  33. November 26, 2006 at 12:12 am

    Also, I was glad to see that the authors did population weighting and had a very large (4000+ homes) and seemingly broad data set (they used the National Survey of Families and Households–a web search will probably provide plenty of info about the survey…).

  34. Elder Typhus
    November 26, 2006 at 12:52 am

    HHH, a Pharma rep once told me that Prozac, Zoloft, BuSpar et. al. were referred to as “Sandy’s Candies” because so many SSRI prescriptions were filled there. As long as Breadwinner Bob has a good health plan, SAHM can float through her day. Perhaps the study should’ve been controlled for anti-depressant use?

  35. N.G.
    November 26, 2006 at 2:30 am

    It seems to me that a fundamental obstacle that a study like this can never overcome is that the nebulous term “happiness” is determined by self-reporting. It seems to me that women who generally tend to have a commitment to marriage, for example, would be more likely to exaggerate their self-reported happiness, because to do otherwise would belie that supposed commitment to marriage as an ideal. The same could be said of women who believe in traditional gender roles–a woman might see a confession of being less happy as a complaint of being in the role she is in, and hence skew her report.

    This is, in my opinion, exactly the reason that anti-depressant use is so high in an area like Provo where many of the “predicting factors” of a happy marriage are also prevalent–it can be a tremendous psychological strain to have a set of beliefs or expectations about marriage, gender roles, etc. and then to not feel true emotional happiness when living those beliefs but instead feel pressured into not complaining so as to avoid being labeled a “feminist.”

    What would really be useful would be to try to use some more controllable method of assessing when someone really experiences “happiness”–if such a thing exists.

  36. random me
    November 26, 2006 at 2:41 am

    since everything else has already been said, why shouldn’t men comment on whether or not women should have epidurals? especially if they’re medically informed or trained men who are aware that there are risks associated with epidurals?

    a woman who had an epidural

  37. November 26, 2006 at 6:35 am

    Happiness in mortality is always, in part, a function of one’s ability to embrace suboptimal living arrangements and personal relationships.

    That’s true whether you are a housewife, a 19 year-old missionary, a steelworker, or whatever else.

    Telling a person to suck it up, and learn to deal with an imperfect world, and make their own happiness, is not the same as condoning the real flaws in our world.

  38. Naismith
    November 26, 2006 at 10:29 am

    “Hopefully Julie will give a more careful review of the article after she reads it.”

    As a researcher myself, I kinda hate it when people try to comment on the article without reading the article. Really, it would have been better to wait until it was publicly available.

    I also read the full article through my university library. I agree with Robert C. that it had a reliable sample size, they did appropriate weighting and controlled for things like age and length of marriage.

    But I think it should also be pointed out that this was a theory driven study, designed to test specific hypotheses about companionate marriage. That’s not a bad thing, but from reading Julie’s report I got the impression that they had done factor analysis or something more open-ended to determine which factors were most predictive of happiness. Whereas the study actually had a limited agenda to test the hypotheses.

    So one does run the danger of missing things that are actually more important, but not included in this particular model.

  39. November 26, 2006 at 11:07 am

    All the commenters griping about the study should first understand the current state of “happiness research” generally: the most important factor in predicting someone’s happiness is measuring their expectations. People with humble expectations report much more happiness. If you want someone to be happy, teach them to lose themselves, and be the servant of all. To the degree they internalize that you’ll assure their happiness.

  40. paul f
    November 26, 2006 at 3:59 pm

    The comments about SSRIs (ie. prozac) are uninformed and unfounded. Prozac does not cause one to float through the day. There is not reliable data that Utah’s SSRI use rate is higher than the rest of the country. There is also a case to be made for ‘self-medication’ in other parts of the country through alcohol use. If you want to float, use alcohol–not prozac.

  41. Ivan Wolfe
    November 26, 2006 at 7:16 pm

    Utah’s suppossedly sky-high Prozac usage has been disproven time and again, but people still repeat the story anyway.


  42. Julie M. Smith
    November 26, 2006 at 7:27 pm

    Because, Ivan, it supports what they want to believe about Mormon women.

  43. Brenda
    November 27, 2006 at 12:41 am

    I’ve heard the “breadwinning husband” argument before, but I wonder if the statistic has more to do with the husband not pulling in a high enough income to give the wife a choice to be employed or not. Otherwise, it’s hard to imagine a wife not being happy simply because her income is equal to or higher than her husband’s income.

    I love my job. One thing I love about it is that it is optional.

  44. Brenda
    November 27, 2006 at 12:49 am

    Life is a bunch of tradeoffs, even if you have plenty of money.

    My husband and I are a two-career family. I agree with the first priority-ranked desire: A husband’s emotional engagement. My husband is amazing. We alternate responsibilities with our children, either getting them off to school in the morning or leaving work at 3:00 to spend the afternoon with them (of course this means getting to work early!). My husband is not only engaged in making our life together work for me, but he is fully engaged as a parent.

    The tradeoffs? Well, the house is not always organized (that might be an understatement). He doesn’t enjoy cooking, so meals on his night are rudimentary. Fortunately with two incomes we can afford some help cleaning every couple of weeks, which keeps us afloat. But I wouldn’t trade the emotional connection that he has with our children for a more organized house and a home-cooked meal every night. Although we sometimes feel like we are too busy, we are closer as a couple because we share more in common (both as parents and as professionals).

    Regardless of the couple model (traditional or something else), I believe that happy couples are good at honing in on what they want in life and making deliberate tradeoffs. If you’re both not on board with the tradeoffs, then one of you is not going to be happy.

    I’m surprised that “A commitment to marriage” is ranked 4th. Seems like it should be first, or at least second.

  45. Edje
    November 27, 2006 at 3:06 am

    We’ve discussed this study before.

    The press release; the article.

  46. Elder Typhus
    November 27, 2006 at 3:06 am

    Interesting article.,1249,640196840,00.html. Doesn’t exactly “disprove” anything.

  47. Stephen Hardy
    November 27, 2006 at 9:11 am

    I spoke with Timothy Heaton, at BYU, once about demographic statistics and women’s roles. I apologize to Heaton if I mis-remember his comment, but he said that women’s satisfaction/happiness is related to their roles in this manner: Those who wished to stay at home, and did stay at home were quite satisfied and happy. Those who wished to pursue a career outside their home and did so were quite satisfied and happy. Those who didn’t want to pursue a career outside of home-making, but felt compelled to were unhappy, and those who wished to work ourside the home but were able to were also unsatisfied/unhappy.

    This has always made sense to me. Its all about expectations and aspirations.

  48. melanie
    November 27, 2006 at 3:09 pm

    1. I believe there is a difference between being happily married becuase the relationship with your spouse is good and being happy/unhappy with career decisions

    2. Too often, many of the items in Julie’s post are not discussed prior to marriage due to a lack of maturity. NOW is a good time to own up and show some maturity

    3. Many women, myself included, assume that becuase something makes sense to us that it will be common sense to our spouse. For example, a bathroom in our home is only used by my husband and child. As you could imagine, it is disgusting to me. I asked how come he doesn’t clean it and his response is “it doesn’t occur to me that it needs to be cleaned”.

    to the women who feel that their husband doesn’t contribute enough. MAKE A LIST (and don’t expect him to do it how you do it).

    And always remember this. You picked him.

  49. Jack
    November 27, 2006 at 9:14 pm

    Once again we see the privileged trying to get it through the thick heads of the middle class morons that career trumps all when it comes to happiness in marraige.

  50. Brenda
    November 28, 2006 at 12:16 am

    Jack, will you please clarify what you mean? There’s a lot of ways you can read your comment, given the many ideas on this thread.

  51. veritas
    November 28, 2006 at 12:25 pm

    Interesting Qoute from the article referred to in #46.

    (BYU Professor Daniel K.) Judd said recent surveys show that some LDS women report higher incidences of depression than women outside the church….

  52. a random John
    November 28, 2006 at 12:43 pm


    I can tell you that we have people that clean the toilets and quite a bit of childcare help and there are still complaints that the house is a mess.

    Both of us claim to be happy though, even though we live in Sandy and neither of us is medicated.

    Oh, and I earn a lot less money than my wife does.

  53. ECS
    November 28, 2006 at 1:25 pm

    aRJ, you are a truly man before your time :) We miss you guys!

  54. Jack
    November 28, 2006 at 7:59 pm


    It means that the privileged fail to recognize that the vast majority of those with jobs are grunge laborers. Somehow the privileged can’t seem to understand that there ain’t a whole lot of deliverance–from the domestic mundane, that is–in working on an assembly line, or flipping burgers, or mopping floors, or changing sheets, or what-have-you.

    The argument against finding happiness in the more traditional marital contexts always seems to come across a bit Marie Antionettish–you know, let them find a career avenue that will bring fulfillment if they want happiness. It is a very small percentage of the work force who find fulfillment it their careers–mostly in the “upper crust.” The rest of us middle (or lower) class morons have to look for happiness elsewhere. And I’m happy to report that many succeed in finding it outside of their careers.

  55. Brenda
    November 28, 2006 at 10:15 pm

    Yes, the career logic for women is predicated on the idea that the job will reward with fulfillment.

  56. Brenda
    November 28, 2006 at 10:34 pm

    There have been quite a few discussions on this forum about what makes women happy or cranky and the differences between a traditional approach and a non-traditional approach. All of these discussions tend to put the wife at the center as if the decisions revolve around her fulfillment, happiness, and expectations.

    I’m interested in swapping the perspective of the discussion. What makes husbands happy?

    On the one hand, husbands have a lot more opportunity and choice. With far fewer domestic expectations, many more career options are available. Plus our church culture is more supportive of husbands pursuing extended educations to support their career aspirations.

    On the other hand, we expect husbands to pull in a “breadwinning” income. While working is optional for women, husbands can’t get out of it. Are there any men who would prefer to be stay-at-home dads? Do some men prefer to share the burden of working?

    If husbands could configure something different than the traditional approach, what would it look like? Or, are they happiest with the traditional model?

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