Single people subject to negative stereotypes

A recent Time magazine article on why marriage is viewed so positively despite the divorce statistics, suggested that single people are the subject of negative stereotyping and discrimination.

The conclusions come from the work of psychologist Prof Bella DePaulo who recently summarised her research in a review paper for the journal Current Directions in Psychological Science.

Unfortunately, the full text isn’t available online, but the abstract makes for interesting reading:

A widespread form of bias has slipped under our cultural and academic radar. People who are single are targets of singlism: negative stereotypes and discrimination. Compared to married or coupled people, who are often described in very positive terms, singles are assumed to be immature, maladjusted, and self-centered. Although the perceived differences between people who have and have not married are large, the actual differences are not. Moreover, there is currently scant recognition that singlism exists, and when singlism is acknowledged, it is often accepted as legitimate.

The article itself reviews research which has uncovered these negative stereotypes as well we suggesting why they occur.

DePaulo proposes that the prejudice may arise from an evolutionary tendency to identify unpaired people – making them stand out – and from the fact that happy single people implicitly challenge cultural beliefs about the necessity of marriage.

DePaulo also challenges the assumption that married people are generally happier and healthier than singles, as the effect is seemingly small and is drawn from correlational studies.

In other words, it is not clear whether this small effect exists solely because happier and healthier people are more likely to get married.

DePaulo has also written a book on the subject called Singled Out (ISBN 0312340818) which tackles these issues in more detail and argues that we should recognise and address this form of ‘hidden’ discrimination.

Link to Time article ‘Americans Love Marriage. But Why?’
Link to abstract of DePaulo’s review paper on ‘singlism’.
Link to DePaulo’s website.

2 thoughts on “Single people subject to negative stereotypes”

  1. Yeah The one thing that fires me up is the idea that if you are with someone you have status in America,and you are considered special,I have gotten so disgusted how most couples,yeah I have nasty choice words about people like that,that discriminate single people,and spread stereotypes because of their like that makes you really want to move out of America,and start a new life.

  2. I’m a 46 year old never married straight man with no children. I’m sure that there is a single stigma that still exists, but I have not experienced it much. A lot of middle-aged guys I know are either divorced, gay, or stuck in unhappy marriages. A lot of guys have told me that I was smart to never marry, and I believe them. Sometimes people do assume that I’m gay, but it doesn’t bother me. If it does, I simply tell them the truth: That I once lived with a woman and that that experience convinced me never to marry. No one seems to have a problem with that.

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