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Monday, 11 August 2008 19:23

Long-lasting marriages: Similar people, not opposites, attract

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According to a German study, marriages have a better chance of success if the couples are similar to each other in some of the major personality traits—and the old saying of “opposites attract” is not true in the case of staying together.


The scientific paper “Only the congruent survive—Personality similarities in couples” tells of the research performed by German psychologists Beatrice Rammstedt (Center for Survey Research and Methodology, Mannheim, Germany) and Jürgen Schupp (German Institute for Economic Research, Berlin, Germany).

Their paper first appeared online on July 22, 2008, in the journal Personality and Individual Differences.

Their study was aimed at finding scientific proof as to what personality traits are conducive for a long-lasting marriage.

The researchers write in the abstract to their paper, “Numerous studies proved that people tend to select partners that are similar to them with regard to many social and psychological variables. Even though this effect was also found for personality, results are inconsistent and reveal convergence coefficients ranging from negative over zero- to positive correlations.”

Therefore, they decided to investigate personality congruence (consistency) between spouses and to find out which personality factors show a high degree of similarity and which ones do not with respect to the duration of marriages.

Rammstedt and Schupp analyzed 6,909 couples, with all of them being German adults.

They based personality congruence on the “Big Five” factors of personality traits. These big five factors are: “conscientiousness,” “agreeableness,” “neuroticism” (or “emotional stability"), “openness” (or “intellect”), and “extraversion”—sometimes abbreviated CANOE and also called, as a group, the “Five Factor Model.”

Each big five factor consists of a group of more specific and similar traits. For example, “extraversion” includes the sub-factors of excitement seeking, sociability, impulsiveness, and positive emotions.

Their conclusions follow on page two.




Their conclusions found that people choose their marriage partners based on “agreeableness,” “conscientiousness,” and “openness.”

However, according to Rammstedt and Schupp, these people did not choose their spouse based on “extroversion” and “emotional stability.”

In addition, as the marriage progressed, the researchers found that the three personality traits with a high congruence actually increased in similarity over the years.

The researchers concluded that marriages whose partners had similar levels of “agreeableness” and “conscientiousness” were more likely to have successful marriages and were more likely to remain married.

However, couples who differed greatly with respect to the two factors of “agreeableness” and “conscientiousness” were more likely to separate and/or divorce.

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