Who you marry affects career success, study finds

Who you marry affects career success


Psychology researchers at Washington University in St Louis, Missouri have discovered that your choice of spouse informs your career success.

Of course, there’s an element of non-surprise about this revelation; it’s no secret that having a supportive spouse can give you the confidence to succeed and can have a positive effect on a marriage. The English courts have known this for some time, as evidenced by their commitment to seeing no difference between the contributions to a marriage of breadwinner or homemaker.

However, the Washington University study gives this idea some scientific teeth. The researchers, Joshua Jackson and Brittany Solomon, found that specific personality traits in a spouse can aid a person’s career trajectory. While several qualities were measured, including openness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism, the most important trait is conscientiousness, which can help raise the professional productivity of a lazier mate.

Not that this applies only to isolated incidents, such as encouragement to ask for a promotion or raise at a specific time; rather it is a process of accumulated support that counts. Jackson and Solomon analysed data taken from study participants who were given a series of psychological tests to gauge their personality traits. The study took place over the course of five years and featured 5,000 married people ranging in age from 19 to 89. Three quarters of participants had a marriage where both partners were working.

They then tracked the participants’ career success by using annual surveys inquiring into job satisfaction and any promotions. They discovered that there was a correlation between job satisfaction and success and spousal conscientiousness. Thus, while many people favour traits like agreeableness in a potential partner, it may actually pay off professionally to marry someone driven and ambitious who has strong career goals.

The findings have been published in the journal Psychological Science, and the report can be read in full here.

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