Married men are nicer

Men
tend to behave better when they’re married, both because marriage likely helps
improve their behaviour, and nicer men are more likely to be married in the
first place, a new study reports.
The researchers found that men with fewer nasty qualities were more likely to
eventually end up married. But among men who did marry, some showed signs
indicating that their bad behaviour decreased after the union.

These
findings address a long-standing debate among researchers, concerning why
married men display fewer qualities associated with antisocial personality
disorder, such as criminal behaviour, lying, aggression, and lack of remorse.
Is it because marriage reforms them, or because men with more of these nasty
traits are less likely to get married in the first place?

The
answer: A little bit of both, according to study author Dr. S. Alexandra Burt
at Michigan State University.

 Married men “are just not as antisocial
to begin with,” she said. “And when they get married, they get even less
antisocial. So both things are going on.”

Burt
and her colleagues adopted a “novel approach” to investigate the link
between marriage and antisocial personality disorder, said Dr. Ryan King at the
University at Albany, SUNY, who was not involved in the study.

Specifically,
they followed 289 pairs of male twins for 12 years, between the ages of 17 and
29. More than half of the twins were identical, meaning they shared all of
their genes – and, largely, their childhood environment, as well, since both were
raised in the same household.

The
authors found that men who eventually married during the study period, about 60
per cent of them, showed less antisocial behaviour at ages 17 and 20,
suggesting that men with more of these traits are less likely to get married in
the first place. Specifically, they found that by the age of 29, unmarried men
had an average of 1.3 antisocial behaviours, compared with 0.8 among married
men.

However,
among identical twins in which one was married and one wasn’t, the married twin
had fewer antisocial behaviours after the union than the unmarried twin. Given
that identical twins, with their similar genetics and childhood environments,
are likely to have the same antisocial tendencies, these findings indicate that
marriage helped weed out those bad behaviours.

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