Psychological Study Frustration

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Psychological Study Frustration

Post by eselle28 on Wed Jun 10, 2015 3:20 pm

I was going to post this as a rant, but figured it might attract follow up comments so am starting a separate thread.

I'm increasingly frustrated with the extent to which psychological studies focus on very young people in general and college students in particular. It's not that these groups don't need to be studied. I think the problem is that there's not enough research on other groups, and that research on the youngest people tends to be generalized to everyone. I find it particularly annoying when the subjects relate to long term relationships and sex, because I think there are material differences in people's attitudes and behavior when they're 20 versus when they're 40.

Take this study. It predicts that if you make substantially more than your partner, they're more likely to cheat on you. The effect is much stronger for women who are higher earners, but it affects men who earn much more than their wives, too. There's even a handy graph.


But, wait. The study is of married Americans...ages 18-32. The average age of marriage in the US is 27 for women and 29 for men, so many people in this sample married earlier than is usual. People in their late teens to early 30s are also far less likely to have stable career tracks. This is just guesswork, but I suspect that of the couples where one person vastly outearns the other, these young couples are more likely to include a student, someone who's finished their education but been unable to find long term work, someone who's still deciding on a career track, someone who doesn't work because their spouse is in the military and they move too often, or someone who's a stay at home parent not by choice but because they can't afford daycare. If the sample had instead been married Americans ages 25-45, I suspect there might be more stay at home parents by choice and working people who've chosen lower paying careers than their spouses for lifestyle reasons. Would that mean that rates of infidelity would be any different? I don't know, but I'd be interested to see, and it also might be more relevant to people worrying about how their career choices might impact their marital satisfaction - even people who are or want to be married in their 20s aren't going to be at that stage of life forever!

Just as a note, I'm not criticizing the study itself. It clearly identifies who it's studying, and it's the media that's choosing to generalize. That being said, I do think that 18-32 is an odd age range for married couples particularly, and I wonder if the media might not be quite so quick to seize these studies if there weren't so many of them compared to ones of older people or a broad range of age groups.
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Re: Psychological Study Frustration

Post by Caffeinated on Wed Jun 10, 2015 3:26 pm

eselle28 wrote:I'm increasingly frustrated with the extent to which psychological studies focus on very young people in general and college students in particular. It's not that these groups don't need to be studied. I think the problem is that there's not enough research on other groups, and that research on the youngest people tends to be generalized to everyone. I find it particularly annoying when the subjects relate to long term relationships and sex, because I think there are material differences in people's attitudes and behavior when they're 20 versus when they're 40.

PREACH.

I'm increasingly likely to disbelieve the results of any study that doesn't include people my age. Especially sociological studies. I am not the same person now that I was at 20. Would I even recognize that person? It's just laziness on the part of researchers, because it's easier to round up college students to study than it is working adults.
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Re: Psychological Study Frustration

Post by Wondering on Thu Jun 11, 2015 1:47 pm

Yeah, I agree with both of you, especially the laziness on the part of the researchers since a lot of this research is done at universities and it's easier to find a pool to study among the students.

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Re: Psychological Study Frustration

Post by The Wisp on Thu Jun 11, 2015 2:26 pm

Just briefly glancing over the methodology as a complete layman, this study seems much better than most social psychological and sociological studies I've read (which isn't saying much). It actually has a decent sample size and includes significant numbers of non-white and non-Asian people. But, I still agree that the age thing is an issue.

Also, another problem with sampling younger people in this case that you didn't mention, eselle, is that I would guess that people who marry younger are more likely to have conservative views on gender, which would probably mean that men with higher earning wives are more likely to resent them and feel emasculated.
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