Reexamining adaptation and the set point model of happiness: reactions to changes in marital status

J Pers Soc Psychol. 2003 Mar;84(3):527-39. doi: 10.1037//0022-3514.84.3.527.


According to adaptation theory, individuals react to events but quickly adapt back to baseline levels of subjective well-being. To test this idea, the authors used data from a 15-year longitudinal study of over 24.000 individuals to examine the effects of marital transitions on life satisfaction. On average, individuals reacted to events and then adapted back toward baseline levels. However, there were substantial individual differences in this tendency. Individuals who initially reacted strongly were still far from baseline years later, and many people exhibited trajectories that were in the opposite direction to that predicted by adaptation theory. Thus, marital transitions can be associated with long-lasting changes in satisfaction, but these changes can be overlooked when only average trends are examined.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Female
  • Germany, East
  • Germany, West
  • Happiness*
  • Humans
  • Life Change Events*
  • Linear Models
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Marriage / psychology*
  • Models, Psychological
  • Personal Satisfaction*
  • Widowhood / psychology*