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For Better: The Science of a Good Marriage, Tara Parker-Pope


Tara Parker-Pope’s new book about love and marriage has been getting a great deal of attention in the media, especially as she challenges the oft-quoted “50 percent of marriages end in divorce.” This perhaps is the hook of “For Better: The Science of a Good Marriage,” those who stop there are missing out. In three parts, Parker-Pope addresses factors which have positive impacts, negative impacts, and some combination of both. The first chapters address the fifty percent statistic, and how it has possibly impacted the way people think about marriage and divorce. She continues by looking at the concept of commitment and monogamy. There is, of course, a chapter on sex and its role in marriage, as well as chapters about fighting, children, and housework. Throughout the book, Parker-Pope cites studies of all sizes from a variety of sources, research from other countries, experts such as psychologists, anthropologists, doctors, professors, novelists, and so forth, totaling nearly two hundred citations. Interspersed through the book are “For Better” quizzes to help the reader analyze and understand some of the dynamics at play in their own relationships. These are also collected and printed together at the end of the text.

This book primarily focuses on marriage in North American society, although the author does draw on some studies from other countries. Also, there is not much commentary on the role of other family members (parents, siblings) on the marriage, nor is there much discussion about race and ethnicity, though she does address the difference in studies between heterosexual and homosexual relationships. Overall, this is a timely, well-researched book that will be helpful to many wanting to learn more about one of their most important relationships.

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