April 18, 2011 / 1:59 PM / 8 years ago

Married couples "more likely to balance disputes"

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Married couples tend to take turns in letting the other partner win arguments, according to research presented at a conference for economists.

Professor Alistair Munro and colleagues at Royal Holloway College London said in a paper to be presented at the Royal Economic Society’s annual conference that they posed a series of questions and presented a number of choices to 82 couples to see how they make decisions.

Couples were asked to choose between options such as a karting experience for two or dinner and theater tickets for two and then asked to resolve any disputed preferences.

After they completed separate questionnaires, the partners were brought together and asked to make decisions jointly, using identical sets of choices.

Only about 40 percent of answers were disputed and one couple was in perfect agreement across all questions.

Women won just over half of disputed decisions. But there was a wide dispersion across couples.

Twenty-two couples split the wins evenly, but in one in six cases, one partner won all disputes. In all but two of these cases the dominant partner was male.

The results showed a partner who won one dispute was half as likely to win the next dispute, indicating that many couples were taking it in turns to win.

The pattern was not related to the order of the choices, since the order was random across couples. But taking it in turn only applied to the married couples — who also tended to have been together longer.

“Economists often assume that couples bargain like feuding countries, with each person trying to win the decisions that mean the most to them,” said a statement about the research on the Royal Economic Society’s website.

“If that’s the case, then we should not see particular sequences of wins and losses in the data. Instead, the fact that we see turn-taking suggests that married couple are also focused on maintaining fairness in their relationships.”

Reporting by Paul Casciato

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