According to GSS data, married women without children reported being "very happy" at a rate of 45%, while married women with children reported being "very happy" at a rate of 41%. Women separated or divorced without children reported "very happy" rates of 27%, while separated or divorced women with children reported "very happy" rates of 21%.
For single, never-married women, their reported rates of being "very happy" were at 24% for those without children, and 19% for those with children.
The pattern held when adults were questioned about rates of unhappiness, Wilcox and Wolfinger found.
Wolfinger noted that he was unable to reach Dolan for comment on an article he wrote about his data analysis, but Wolfinger said that "the story becomes clearer after looking at the ATUS questionnaire. First, it's important to note that general happiness is being measured, not happiness within one's marriage. The two are related to be sure, but far from perfectly. The GSS has separate measures of marital happiness and overall happiness, and the correlation coefficient between the two is .39."
Secondly, he said, one ATUS question does ask about people present in the room during the survey, but respondents do not specify whether it was a spouse, child, parent, or cable repair guy, Wolfinger noted.
"Instead, respondents are asked this question: 'Were you interacting with anyone during this time, including over the phone? (Yes/No)."
"But let's put all these concerns aside and take Dolan's finding at face value. How can his finding be explained? Here's what he has to say about it on page 69 of his book: 'It appears that people are more likely to say they feel happy if their spouse can hear what they are saying. Or it could simply be that their spouses put them in a better mood, which influences how they recall their experiences yesterday. (My money is on the former.)'"
"I'd like to think he's wrong here," Wolfinger concluded, "and his data do little to convince me one way or another."