Marriage brings happiness to men, even to those less interested in marriage, and most women, although women with less traditional expectations did not report an increase in happiness, new research suggests.
Marriages in Taiwan last year reached a record low of 114,606, while divorces hit a 20-year low of 47,887, government data show.
Investigating the trend, National Chengchi University Department of Sociology associate professor Hu Li-chung (胡力中) analyzed data from a longitudinal Academia Sinica study on adolescent development.
The 17-year study of 5,600 students from 40 junior-high schools in Taipei, New Taipei City and Yilan County asked the students about their happiness at different stages in life, among other questions.
Hu found that reported happiness was higher overall among married people than unmarried people.
By gender, 56.2 percent of married men said they were “very happy,” compared with only 39.4 percent of unmarried men who said so.
Among women, the figure dropped to 44.9 percent and 35.4 percent respectively.
Happiness in marriage also increased over time, with 47.2 percent of people saying they were happy in 2011, which grew to 51.8 percent in 2017.
However, the 2011 figure was higher than the average number of people who said they were happy that year, suggesting that happiness is linked to marriage.
The top reason men said they wanted to get married was to start a family, which was different from reasons cited by women, who said they wanted children or to make their parents happy.
A considerable number of respondents from both genders said they would not get married to “avoid gossip,” a factor that has decreased in importance over time, Hu said.
Instead, more people are choosing to get married for personal reasons, although meeting parental expectations was a major contributing factor, he said, citing the 30 to 40 percent of women and nearly half of men who said making their parents happy was a major factor in their decision.
The effect of marriage on happiness also appeared to be split by gender, Hu said.
Marriage usually had a positive impact on male happiness, but for women, only those who had a higher “probability” of getting married became happier, while happiness did not change among those with a low probability.
The probability of marriage relates to family background and personal values, Hu said.
For example, if a woman identifies with traditional familial norms, marriage would bring her more happiness, as it is the only type of close relationship that satisfies these expectations, he said.
On the other hand, women who do not identify with traditional norms can find the same fulfillment from other arrangements, such as coliving or remaining single, he said.
Daughters of men with a university education or higher often have high career goals and marry later, meaning that getting married in their early 30s has a smaller effect on their happiness, Hu added.
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