Is There a Right Age for Marriage?

There is no wrong time to do the right thing.  Charles M. Blow

Is there a right age to get married or to begin a long-term relationship?  A new research article published in the Journal of Family Psychology   explores this very question.  Matthew D. Johnson of the University of Alberta and a team of co-researchers specifically examined marital timing (whether a person marries early, on time, or late compared with their age peers) and how this can be linked to different indicators of subjective well-being.

Though extensive research has already shown that married people tend to report greater overall life satisfaction than their single or divorced counterparts, there is still some controversy over why this relationship between marital status and happiness exists.   Are people with a heightened sense of well-being and a positive outlook on life more likely to get married or does marriage itself lead to a greater sense of subjective well-being?    Certainly people who get divorced are much more likely to report emotional problems such as depression.   Still, this is usually a relatively short-term phenomenon as the newly-divorced learn to adapt and seek out new relationships.

But there are other factors that can influence how marriage can affect well-being.   As we grow older, we experience important life transitions, such as when we pass from adolescence to young adulthood, and start taking on new social roles as a result.   We also find ourselves dealing with family and societal expectations about the kind of roles we are "supposed" to assume by a certain age.  This includes marriage and all the responsibilities that go with it.    Failing to live up to these expectations, i.e., delaying marriage or avoiding it altogether, often means having to deal with social or family disapproval.   While this kind of social disapproval often varies from one culture to another,  significant life milestones such as reaching a certain age can also mean increased anxiety and a sense of shame over not having accomplished what we are often programmed to believe we should have accomplished by then.   

To read more, check out my new Psychology Today blog post.  


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