The Scientific Study of People Who Are Single:
An Annotated Bibliography


Bella M. DePaulo
Chair, Academic Advisory Board of the Spectrum Institute
Research and Policy Division of the
American Association for Single People (AASP)

January 2, 2004
 

 


Commentary
 

 
What have we learned from scientific research about the lives of people who are single? In this document I have compiled hundreds of relevant references. Yet, the scientific study of singles is, in many ways, just beginning. In stark contrast to the scholarship on marriage and family, there are no academic journals dedicated to the study of people who are single, no government funding earmarked for research on singles, no textbooks about singles, and no annual conferences on singles.

My work on this project was funded by the Marchionne Foundation. The foundation is the only source of funding dedicated to scholarship on people who are single. I applied for this funding in my role as the Chair of the Academic Advisory Board of the American Association for Single People (AASP), which is an advocacy group for single Americans.

When I first began to study singles, I searched for scholarship explicitly about people who are single–including people who had always been single as well as divorced and widowed singles. The writings I found are included in this bibliography, and most will be readily identifiable from their titles.

Although the writings pertaining specifically to people who are single are relatively few, there are large bodies of scholarship on relevant topics. For example, there are sophisticated literatures in psychology on topics such as stigma and stereotyping, personal relationships and social support. Included in this bibliography are many such writings that make no explicit reference to people who are single, yet are important to our understanding of singles. I have also included sections on marriage and family, as I believe that scholars of singles need to be familiar with some of the fundamental issues, concepts, and findings from those fields.

The focus of this collection is on singles in contemporary American society, but select references to singles at other times and places are included, too. I am a social psychologist by training, and most of the references I have collected are from psychology and related disciplines such as sociology. Other disciplines such as history, anthropology, economics, and public policy contribute importantly to our understanding of singles. I have included a few references to topics beyond psychology at the end of the bibliography as possible starting points for further study. I have also included a short section on self-help books and humor books written for singles. Although such writings fall far outside of the domain of science, they are telling in what they suggest about the place of singles in contemporary society.

There are 36 topics covered in this bibliography, and they are organized into 12 categories.  Some references appear under more than one topic, but I have not tried to reproduce each reference under all of the topics to which it may be relevant.

The first category includes references on various subtypes of singles, and the second covers some of the basics in the study of marriage and family. For all remaining topics, I have written introductory remarks outlining the important questions addressed by the writings, or explaining why I think the topic is relevant to our understanding of singles. The framing is largely my own. Because there is no established discipline devoted to the study of singles, there are no standard ways of conceptualizing the issues. Readers can reorganize the bibliography in ways that may be of particular relevance to their own interests. For example, it would be easy to collect the references relevant to race and ethnicity, or living arrangements, into new sections.

I welcome your comments and suggestions. You can contact me at depaulo@psych.ucsb.edu.
 

 
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