Bookwala looked at three measures of psychological resources, including personal mastery (the degree people think they have control over things in life, which is important to avoid depression), agency (the tendency to focus on oneself, which is good for mental health) and self-sufficiency (a sense of autonomy, which is also linked with better mental health).
The never-married participants do tend to have fewer social resources, she said. "In general they tend to report less [perceived] support from families than marrieds."
But the higher the never-married individuals scored on those psychological resources, the better their emotional well-being, she found. Better, even, than the married folks, if they scored high on those measures.
"In that sense, we find our study debunks that myth of something being wrong with the never-married individual," Bookwala said.
In fact, high levels of self-sufficiency may work against people in a marriage, she noted. "For a marriage to work well, you need a certain amount of interdependence," Bookwala said. It could, in fact, explain why some never-married people decided not to wed.
Or, she said, they may have developed self-sufficiency the longer they stayed single.
The study suggests that marriage -- often touted as the best lifetime relationship goal -- may not be best for everyone, said Patrick Markey, an associate professor of psychology at Villanova University in Villanova, Pa.
For most people, marriage might be a desirable goal, he said. "But there might be a subset of people, the ultra-independent individual, for whom this may not be the best life course."
He's referring to those people who Bookwala found high in self-sufficiency. "They might actually be happier because they didn't get married," Markey said.
But, he pointed out, the sample size of never-married participants in the study, a little over 100, i
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