Are the Lifelong Single Satisfied with Being Single? The Link between Past Intimate Relationships, Social Networks and Singlehood

Alexandra-Andreea Ciritel , University of Southampton
Ann M. Berrington, University of Southampton
Brienna Perelli-Harris, University of Southampton

The pool of single people is diverse including individuals who had either a past intimate LAT or a coresidential partner, but also those who never had an intimate partner, who have been lifelong single. This study bridges the sociological and psychological literature in shedding light on how those who had a LAT or a coresidential partner differ from the lifelong singles in their assessment of satisfaction with being single. As social support is part and parcel of a satisfied life, this paper also asks how satisfaction with friends and frequency of contacting parents is associated with satisfaction with singlehood. Satisfaction with being single is a subjective well-being measure, indicating how people accept their singlehood within a society where having a partner is strongly associated with a fulfilled and happy life. Data from the German Family Panel is used to identify the past intimate relationships of those single in the birth cohort 1971-1973. The results, based on linear regression analysis, suggest that lifelong singles are more satisfied with their singlehood compared to those who had a past intimate relationship. A higher satisfaction with friends and keeping in contact with parents are related to higher satisfaction with singlehood. Yet, lifelong singles appear to receive less social support than those who had past intimate relationships. The results point to the heterogeneity of those lifelong single who might or might not have chosen to be single, and how a partner is not the only prerequisite for a fulfilling life.

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 Presented in Session 101. Singlehood and Relationships in the 21st Century