When it comes to romantic relationships, attributes such as health, kindness, and social status have been shown to be important qualities in choosing a partner. It may be surprising to learn, however, that certain personal traits predispose a person towards either getting married or forming a cohabitating relationship.
According to a study recently published in the journal Social Science Research, scoring high on attractiveness, personality, and grooming is associated with a greater probability of entering into a marital relationship for both men and women, but it does not collectively have a significant influence on entering a romantic cohabitating relationship.
The findings suggest that individuals consider multiple personal characteristics when seeking a long-term partner. Under this scenario, what one finds lacking in a specific area could be overcome with strength in another area.
"The findings highlight that Aristotle's famous quote 'The whole is more than the sum of its parts' is pertinent when it comes to personal characteristics and marital arrangements," says Michael T. French, a professor of Health Economics in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Miami (UM), and corresponding author of this study.
The study accounts for cohabitation and marriage as competing events in contrast to being single and living without a romantic partner. The project examines three possible outcomes: marriage with or without prior cohabitation, cohabitation without subsequently getting married, and neither marriage nor cohabitation.
The results show that 52 percent of married respondents and 51.7 percent of those in cohabiting relationships ending in marriage were rated as above average in physical attractiveness, whereas 45.9 percent of those in a cohabitating relationship without subsequent marriage and 43.6 percent in neither marriage nor cohabitation scored above average on the attractiveness scale. Similar results were found for personality and grooming.
Other interesting findings from the study include the following:
- Women with above average grooming are less likely to cohabit without subsequent marriage.
- For men, having an above average personality has the strongest association with the likelihood of getting married.
- Men with above average physical attractiveness have a greater chance of cohabitation without subsequent marriage.
"Thus, we have the somewhat curious finding that men with above average looks tend to be more likely to cohabit, while men with above average personalities tend to be more likely to marry (but less likely to cohabit)," the study explains.
The study is titled "Personal traits, cohabitation, and marriage." Co-authors are Ioana Popovici, assistant professor at Nova Southeastern University; Philip K. Robins, professor, School of Business Administration at UM, and Jenny F. Homer, senior research associate for the Health Economics Research Group at UM.
The study analyzed a sample of 9,835 respondents that participated in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. The analysis period of the study covers about eight years. That is the interval of time between when interviewers rated the personal characteristics of respondents and when questions about marriage and cohabitation were asked.
At the time the questions about individuals' romantic agreements were asked, the respondents were 24-34 years old. The researchers plan to follow the sample as they enter adulthood to determine whether the same results hold when the individuals are older.
- Michael T. French, Ioana Popovici, Philip K. Robins, Jenny F. Homer. Personal traits, cohabitation, and marriage. Social Science Research, 2014; 45: 184 DOI: 10.1016/j.ssresearch.2014.01.002
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