Marital Status Continuity and Change Among Young and Midlife Adults: Longitudinal Effects on Psychological Well-Being

Nadine Marks

James D. Lambert


This study examines longitudinal (5-year) effects of remaining in varying marital statuses (separated/divorced, widowed, never married vs. continuously married) or experiencing a marital transition (e.g., married to separated/divorced, married to widowed, never married to married, formerly married to remarried vs. continuously married) on multiple positive and negative dimensions of psychological well being. Data come from National Survey of Families and Households 1987-1993 respondents aged 19-65 (N=6,948). Differences between men and women as well as between young and midlife adults are investigated. Multivariate analyses reveal a complex pattern of effects depending upon the contrast and the outcome examined. The effects of continuity in single status are not very different for women in contrast to men. The transition to divorce or widowhood is associated with somewhat more negative effects for women. Remaining single or becoming single is associated with less negative impact on the mental health of midlife adults than younger adults. Overall, results support the social causation hypothesis and a persistent life strains model for explaining marital status effects.

Key words: psychological well-being, depression, gender, marital status, midlife, longitudinal