Skip to main content

Older married couples argue less, study suggests

July 2, 2013

Older couples often like to tell younger ones they have marriage all figured out, and a new study suggests that when it comes to settling differences, they may have a point. Researchers from San Francisco State University found that married seniors may be better equipped to handle conflict and tend to argue less than their younger counterparts, according to findings published in the Journal of Marriage and Family.

The study relied on an extensive analysis of middle-aged and older long-term married couples over the course of 13 years. Researchers periodically checked in to see how the couples handled disputes and arguments regarding issues such as housework and finances. After looking at the video-taped interactions, the team noticed there were distinct differences between older and younger pairs. Specifically, older couples were more likely to shift their attention to another topic in the face of conflicts.

"This is in line with age-related shifts in socioemotional goals wherein individuals tend toward less conflict and greater goal disengagement in later life stages," said lead author Sarah Holley.

Holley's results shed light on the fact that marriage may be a key component of healthy aging. In fact, a 2012 study found that marriage often helps adults maintain their happiness levels. The research, which was published in the Journal of Research in Personality last May, was conducted by experts at Michigan State University. After poring over data on thousands of participants in a long-running British survey, researchers discovered some interesting findings. Most notably, they found that people who were married tended to exhibit either a spike in happiness or stayed relatively stable, while single subjects experienced a slight decline.