What Married Women Want

Sociologist Brad Wilcox says one type of marriage makes most women happier.

Sociologists Steven L. Nock and W. Bradford Wilcox of the University of Virginia have presented a new study ("What's Love Got to Do with It? Equality, Equity, Commitment, and Women's Marital Quality," available in digital form from Amazon.com) based on the findings of the National Survey of Families and Households. Stan Guthrie, a CT senior associate editor, interviewed Wilcox, who last spoke with this magazine about his book Soft Patriarchs, New Men: How Christianity Shapes Fathers and Husbands (University of Chicago Press, 2004).

What prompted this line of study?

My book suggested that men who were churchgoers with a strong, normative commitment to marriage were better husbands and were more likely, it seemed to me, to make their wives happy. They were more likely to spend quality time with their wives and more likely to express affection to their wives. I really wanted to test some academic theories that suggest that more egalitarian marriages are happier than more complementarian marriages.

Why did you choose to look at happiness?

About two-thirds of all divorces in the United States are, at least officially, initiated by women. One of the key factors [they cite] is the emotional quality of their relationships. In other words, if they feel that their marriages are high-quality relationships, they're not likely to seek divorce. If they feel otherwise, however, women are much more likely to head for divorce. One of the implicit concerns of this study was to figure out in what kind of context women are most likely to be happy and then are, of course, indirectly, less likely to divorce.

How do evangelical women fare in all this?

Based on my earlier research, evangelical women tend to be happier in ...

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