The Politics of Happiness: What Government Can Learn from the New Research on Well-Being

By Derek Bok | Go to book overview

8
MARRIAGES AND FAMILIES

Researchers agree that love, friendship, and positive relations with other human beings contribute much to happiness, a result that will hardly surprise anyone. Of these experiences, . close ties within the home matter most both for parents and for children.1 Helping to build such relationships, however, repre- sents a far greater challenge to policy-makers than finding ways to protect people from economic hardship or from the suffering caused by depression and chronic pain. As the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan once observed, “If you expect a government program to change families, you know more about government than I do.”2 Still, warm human ties are so important to happi- ness that it is worth considering whether policies exist that can do something to strengthen marriages and families in ways that will foster caring relationships and promote the healthy development of children.


Helping Marriages

As pointed out in chapter 1, both marriage and divorce can affect happiness in substantial ways. According to one study averaging national surveys from 1970 to 1994, 42 percent of married couples described themselves as “very happy” compared with 17 percent of divorced men and women, 21 percent of couples that were sepa- rated, and 26 percent of individuals who had never married.3 These results, of course, are partly due to the fact that happier people are more likely to get married and stay married. Yet researchers have concluded from longitudinal studies that marriage itself is partly

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The Politics of Happiness: What Government Can Learn from the New Research on Well-Being
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Introduction 1
  • 1: What Investigators Have Discovered 9
  • 2: The Reliability of Research on Happiness 32
  • 3: Should Policy-Makers Use Happiness Research? 45
  • 4: The Question of Growth 63
  • 5: What to Do about Inequality 79
  • 6: The Threat of Financial Hardship 99
  • 7: Relieving Suffering 124
  • 8: Marriages and Families 139
  • 9: Education 156
  • 10: The Quality of Government 179
  • 11: The Significance of Happiness Research 204
  • Notes 213
  • Index 247
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