"Leaky" Marriages and "marital history homogamy" - 9/04
Smart Marriages ®
Tue Sep 14 20:22:34 EDT 2004
subject: "Leaky" Marriages and "marital history homogamy" - 9/04
- 'LEAKY' MARRIAGES ARE BECOMING MORE COMMON
Life News (Social and Behavioral Sciences)
MARRIAGE BEHAVIOR DIVORCE SINGLE WIDOWS FAMILY CHILDREN
"""Kids in remarriages, even biological children of the re-married parents,
tend not to do as well in terms of educational attainment and achievement as
kids in first marriages," she said. "One of the reasons may be that even
though the income of the re-married family is, say, $80,000 a year, after
you take away support to children from a previous family and alimony to an
ex-spouse, the new family's real income may only be $40,000 to $50,000 a
You've been married before. Your mate hasn't. This kind of mixed marriage is
becoming more common even though potential partners in the modern mating
game continue to gravitate to others with similar marital histories.
"Marital history is something that's every bit as important in choosing a
mate as age, education, religion, and race," said Hiromi Ono, a sociologist
at the U-M Institute for Social Research (ISR), the world's largest academic
survey and research organization. Her article on the tendency to marry
someone with a similar marital history---"marital history homogamy"---is
forthcoming in Social Science Research journal.
Ono calls remarriages, including mixed-history unions, "leaky" marriages
because emotional and financial resources often drain out of the current
relationship to help support and maintain ties to children and ex-spouses.
Sometimes, she notes, remarried spouses "plug" the leaks by cutting ties to
former spouses and ignoring commitments to children. But sometimes the leaks
are so large the new marriage eventually sinks.
For her study, Ono analyzed data on non-Hispanic whites from the ISR Panel
Study of Income Dynamics, a nationally representative longitudinal study of
nearly 8,000 U.S. families, conducted since 1968 and funded primarily by the
National Science Foundation. Her analysis was supported by the ISR Center
for the Ethnography of Everyday Life, funded by the Alfred P. Sloan
"With people marrying later these days, there are more single, never-married
adults than ever in the marriage market," she said. But even though
intermarriage between the divorced and the never married has been
increasing, it's still relatively rare.
In 2002, there were about three never-married adults for every divorced
adult in the U.S. In 1998, the year Ono analyzed in her study, there were
about four never-married adults for every divorced adult.
In her analysis, Ono controlled for age and education as well as the number
of adults who had never been married compared to the number who were
divorced, and found that marital history still seemed to have an effect on
mate choice, particularly for women who had children from a previous
marriage. Only about half of divorced adults were remarried to spouses for
whom this was a first marriage.
"Divorced women are more likely than divorced men to maintain ties to
children and in-laws," Ono said. "Divorced men are more likely than divorced
women to marry someone who has never been married before, maybe because
they're less likely to have ties to previous partners."
Ties to former spouses, in-laws and others associated with previous
marriages tend to cause problems in current marriages, Ono said. "Some
divorced people have little or no investment in their former marriage," she
said. "Maybe they didn't have children together, or they didn't own a home
or work together in a family business, for example. But others have heavy
investments in the former marriage, and in these cases, especially for women
who tend to be the custodial parents after a divorce, the ties, or
"baggage," of a former marriage are likely to be strong and heavy.
"Anyone married to a divorced partner knows how tough it is to maintain a
harmonious relationship in the face of constant reminders that your partner
once vowed to love someone else until 'death do us part.' When you're
single, the norm is to cut off all contact with former partners. But the
norms are very different for divorced partners. There are also legal reasons
for divorced parents to give money and other support to families formed in
an earlier relationship."
The consequences of leaky marriages for children in remarriages can be
substantial, Ono said. "Kids in remarriages, even biological children of the
re-married parents, tend not to do as well in terms of educational
attainment and achievement as kids in first marriages," she said. "One of
the reasons may be that even though the income of the re-married family is,
say, $80,000 a year, after you take away support to children from a previous
family and alimony to an ex-spouse, the new family's real income may only be
$40,000 to $50,000 a year."
Established in 1948, the Institute for Social Research (ISR) is among the
world's oldest survey research organizations, and a world leader in the
development and application of social science methodology. ISR conducts some
of the most widely-cited studies in the nation, including the Survey of
Consumer Attitudes, the National Election Studies, the Monitoring the Future
Study, the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, the Health and Retirement Study,
the Columbia County Longitudinal Study and the National Survey of Black
Americans. ISR researchers also collaborate with social scientists in more
than 60 nations on the World Values Surveys and other projects, and the
Institute has established formal ties with universities in Poland, China,
and South Africa. Visit the ISR Web site at http://www.isr.umich.edu for
more information. ISR is also home to the Inter-University Consortium for
Political and Social Research (ICPSR), the world's largest computerized
social science data archive.
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