A Co-twin Analysis of the Relationships Among Gender, Martial Status, Marital Quality and Mental Health

Hunt, Anastasia Karagis, Department of Psychology, University of Virginia
Emery, Robert, Department of Psychology, University of Virginia

Conclusions about the various aspects of marital satisfaction for men and women have been limited by research designs that do not sufficiently control for genetic or shared environmental confounds. The present study used a sample of twins to analyze the gender differences associated with marital quality and marital status, as well as the psychological consequences of separation, divorce and lower quality marriages for both genders while accurately controlling for many confounding influences and selection biases. The sample of 5,990 twins (2,995 twin pairs) and 5,200 spouses was drawn from the Australian Twin Registry. The findings of the study indicated that men's depression levels are negatively affected by getting married (i.e. less depressed), while women's are not. This association for men is quasi causal and not confounded by genetic factors. Married women's alcohol use, however, is significantly lower than nevermarried women. The study indicates that selection bias confounds the female association of marital status with lower alcohol use. There was no significant difference between married and never - married men's levels ofalcohol use. Regarding the differences by gender for the affects of getting separated or divorced, the findings indicated that men's depression levels are affected by both iii separation and divorce to a greater extent than are women's depression levels. For alcohol use, the effect was seen only when marriage was compared to separation (not when marriage was compared to divorce). There were no genetic or shared environmental confounds found in the associations of married versus separated or divorced status with either of the mental health outcomes. Martial quality affects men's and women's depression levels but not alcohol use levels. The effect of marital quality on depression is conflated by shared familial sources contributing to both martial quality and to depression. While confounded, the effects are still significant. However, the quasi causal pathway for marital quality remained three times stronger for men than for women, although the proportion of the variance accounted for by genes and shared environment was relatively less for men. The results indicate that marital quality is still predictive of depression for both genders, but comparatively more so forwomen.

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PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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