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


12. Beyond Psychology

Historical and Cross-Cultural Perspectives

Most psychological research is ahistorical. In the study of singles, though, it is particularly important to have a broad historical and cross-cultural perspective on issues of civil status and family matters. In this section are selected readings on these topics. Many more references can be found in other relevant disciplines such as history and anthropology. In this set of references, studies of single women are far more numerous than studies of single men. The greater scholarly attention to single women does seem to be characteristic of the literature more broadly.

Adams, C. (1996). A choice not to wed? Unmarried women in eighteenth-century France. Journal of Social History, 29, 883-894.

Adams, C. (1997). Devoted companions or surrogate spouses? Sibling relation in eighteenth-century France. In C. Adams, J. R. Censer, & L. J. Graham (Eds.), Visions and revisions of eighteenth-century France. Penn State Press.

Anderson, M. (1984). The social position of spinsters in mid-Victorian Britain. Journal of Family History, 9, 377-393.

Beard, M. R. (1934). The sex life of the unmarried adult: An inquiry into and an interpretation of current sex practices. NY: Vanguard Press. (Reprinted in A. J. Lane (Ed.), Mary Ritter Beard: A sourcebook.)

Bennett, J.M., & Froide, A.M. (Eds.) (1999). Singlewomen in the European past, 1250-1800. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Berend, Z. (2000). "The best or none!": Spinsterhood in nineteenth-century New England. Journal of Social History, 33, 935-945.

Birkett, D. (1989). Spinsters abroad: Victorian lady explorers. NY: Dorset Press.

Borges, D. (1992). The Family in Bahia, Brazil, 1870-1945. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Buunk, B. (1983). Alternative lifestyles from an international perspective: A trans-atlantic comparison. In E. D. Macklin & R. H. Rubin (Eds.), Contemporary Families and Alternative Lifestyles: Handbook on Research and Theory (pp.308-330). London: Sage.

Chambers-Schiller, L. V. (1984). Liberty, a better husband. Single women in America: The generations of 1780-1840. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Chudacoff, H. P. (1999). The age of the bachelor: Creating an American subculture. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Dixon, R. B. (1971). Explaining cross-cultural variations in age at marriage and proportions never marrying. Population Studies, 25, 215-233.

Ehrenreich, B. (1983). The hearts of men: American dreams and the flight from commitment. NY: Anchor Books.

Ferguson, S. J. (2000). Challenging traditional marriage: Never married Chinese American and Japanese American women. Gender & Society, 14, 136-159.

Franklin, P. (Ed.). (1986). Private pages: Diaries of American women 1830s-1970s. NY: Ballantine Books.

Franzen, T. (1996). Spinsters and lesbians: Independent womanhood in the United States. NY: New York University Press.

Freeman, R., & Klaus, P. (1984). Blessed or not? The new spinster in England and the United States in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Journal of Family History, 9, 394-414.

Gatlin, R. (1987). American women since 1945. Jackson, MS: University of Mississippi Press.

Gupta, G. S. (1976). The study of adjustment among unmarried Hindu and Muslim females. Indian Psychological Review, 13, 4-8.

Hanawalt, B. A. (1996). Patriarchal provisions for widows and orphans in medieval London. In M. J. Maynes, A. Waltner, B. Soland, & U. Strasser (Eds.), Gender, kinship, power: A comparative and interdisciplinary history (pp. 201-213). NY: Routledge.

Hassel, J. B. (2002). Choosing not to marry: Women and autonomy in the Katherine Group. NY: Routledge.

Hill, B. (2001). Women alone: Spinsters in England, 1660-1850. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Holder, D. P., & Anderson, C. M. (1989). Women, work, and the family. In M. McGoldrick, C. M. Anderson, & Walsh, F. (Eds.), Women in Families: A Framework for Family Therapy (pp.357-380). New York: W. W. Norton.

Holmes, K. (1998). ‘Spinsters indispensable’: Feminists, single women and the critique of marriage, 1890-1920. Australian Historical Studies, 29, 68-91.

Hufton, O. (1984). Women without men: Widows and spinsters in Britain and France in the eighteenth century. Journal of Family History, 9, 355-376.

Israel, B. (2002). Bachelor girl: The secret history of single women in the twentieth century. NY: William Morrow.

Jansen, W. (1987). Women Without Men: Gender and marginality in an Algerian town. Leiden: E. J. Brill.

Jethani, U. (1994). Single women. Jaipur, India: Rawat Publications. (About single women in India)

Johnson, R. W., & DaVanzo, J. (1998). Economic and cultural influences on the decision to leave home in peninsular Malaysia. Demography, 35, 97-114.

Krishnakumari, N. S. (1987). The status of single women. In Status of Single Women in India: A study of spinsters, widows, and divorcees (pp.165-185). New Delhi: Uppal Publishing House.

Levi-Strauss, C. (1971). The family. In H. L. Shapiro (Ed.), Man, culture, and society (p. 333-357). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Maynes, M. J., Waltner, A., Soland, B., & Strasser, U. (1996). Gender, kinship, and power: A comparative interdisciplinary history. NY: Routledge. (Part 3. ‘Fish without bicycles’: Gender and the paradoxes of kinship.)

Meyerowitz, J. J. (1988). Women adrift: Independent wage earners in Chicago, 1880-1930. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Ono, H. (2003). Women’s economic standing, marriage timing, and cross-national contexts of gender. Journal of Marriage and Family, 65, 275-286.

Palazzi, M. (1996). Work and residence of "women alone" in the context of a patrilineal system (eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Northern Italy). In M. J. Maynes, A. Waltner, B. Soland, & U. Strasser (Eds.), Gender, kinship, power: A comparative and interdisciplinary history (pp. 215-230). NY: Routledge.

Palmieri, P. A. (1980). Patterns of achievement of single academic women at Wellesley College, 1880-1920. Frontiers, 5, 63-67.

Paradise, S. A. (1993). Older never married women: A cross-cultural investigation. In N. D. Davis, E. Cole, & E. D. Rothblum (Eds.), Faces of women and aging (pp. 129-139). NY: Haworth.

Pickles, K. (2001). Colonial counterparts: The first American women in Anglo-Canada, New Zealand, and Australia. Women’s History Review, 10, 273-297.

Roos, P. A. (1985). Gender and Work: A Comparative Analysis of Industrial Societies (pp.1-20). New York: State University of New York Press. (Chapter 6. Marital status differences in labor-force behavior and occupational attainment.)

Rosenthal, N. B. (2002). Spinster tales and womanly possibilities. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

Rotundo, E. A. (1993). American manhood: Transformations in masculinity from the revolution to the modern era.. NY: Basic Books.

Samara, E. M. (1996). Heading households and surviving in a man’s world: Brazilian women in the nineteenth century. In M. J. Maynes, A. Waltner, B. Soland, & U. Strasser (Eds.), Gender, kinship, power: A comparative and interdisciplinary history (pp. 233-242). NY: Routledge.

Simmons, C. (1979). Companionate marriage and the lesbian threat. Frontiers, 4, 54-59.

Simmons, C. (2003). Women’s power in sex radical challenges to marriage in the early twentieth century United States. Feminist Studies, 29, 169-198.

Theodorson, G. A. (1965). Romanticism and motivation to marry in the United States, Singapore, Burma, and India. Social Forces, 44, 17-27. (Includes report of % wishing to marry in each place.)

Topley, M. (1975). Marriage resistance in rural Kwangtung. In M. Wolf & R. Witke (Eds.), Women in Chinese society (pp. 67-88). Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Williams, W. L. (1998). Social acceptance of same-sex relationships in families: Models from other cultures. In C. J. Patterson & A. R. D’Augelli (Eds.), Lesbian, gay, and bisexual identities in families: Psychological perspectives (pp. 53-71). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Vicinus, M. (1985). Independent women: Work and community for single women, 1850-1920. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Wall, R. (1989). Leaving home and living alone: An historical perspective. Population Studies, 43, 369-389.

Watkins, S. C. (1984). Spinsters. Journal of Family History, 9, 310-325.

Weinbaum, B. (1999). Islands of women and Amazons: Representations and realities. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press.

Weir, D. R. (1984). Rather never than late: Celibacy and age at marriage in English cohort fertility, 1541-1871. Journal of Family History, 9, 340-354.


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