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Qualitative interviews were conducted in as part of the Pathways to Marriage study. The authors analyzed the data in a collaborative fashion and utilized content analyses to explore the relationships in the data which were derived from qualitative interviews with the men. Findings on the reasons for the disproportionality of singlehood among Black women reflected these four themes: Recommendations for future research are discussed.

Furthermore, 7 out of 10 Black women are unmarried and 3 out of 10 may never marry Banks, Thus, the disproportionate number of Black women who are single has been well-documented. This demographic pattern is so noticeable, that it has even received considerable attention from popular media e. Among those desiring to marry, scholars have identified barriers related to economic instabilities, challenges that undermine long-term relationship success e.

Other work suggests that some women are happy to remain unmarried, given their uncertainties about the permanency of marriage or their desire to concentrate on their professional lives e.

Boyd-Franklin and Franklin have counseled Black women in clinical settings on these issues. They have noted that Black women are frequently provided with conflicting messages about intimate relationships by elders in their families and communities.

Boyd-Franklin and Franklin wrote:. One is a message of independence e. Though prior work has sampled Black women to learn more about reasons for remaining single, very few studies consider the perspectives of married Black men. We focused on the opinions of these men for three reasons. To respond to our inquiry, the men in the present study offered opinions about relationships by reflecting on their own dating and marital histories, as well as their observations of intimate ties in their families and communities.

We obtained perspectives from men who value marriage, as evidenced by their commitment to enrolling in and completing a marriage enrichment program. From this perspective, obtaining the opinions of married men is particularly important since men traditionally initiate marriage proposals. Children raised in marriage-based households also exhibit more favorable developmental outcomes over time Blackman et al.

Given that stable, satisfying marriages have been associated with positive outcomes e. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to explore reasons that Black women are disproportionately single; we explore those reasons using the perspectives of 52 married Black men. Married Black men offer a unique perspective on this important demographic trend in our country. Very few studies of relationships include the opinions and voices of men, particularly Black men.

In this respect, this investigation makes an important contribution to the literature. Next, we outline relevant literature concerning the influence of macro-level e. The Mundane Environmental Stress Model served as a conceptual guide to help elucidate the processes by which structural factors may impact intimate relationships. Another comparable framework—the Vulnerability-Stress-Adaptation Model—is a useful tool for understanding factors that could explain non-marriage among Black women.

The model emphasizes three components—stressful events e. Next, we discuss empirical work on the impact of education, employment, sex ratio, and incarceration on relationships. Particularly among men, as incomes rise and jobs become more secure, the probability of marriage increases Gibson-Davis et al. Though marriage is delayed when Black men pursue postsecondary education, the probability of marriage increases Marks et al.

Among Black men, scholars have noted a decline in well-paying jobs, and consequentially, a rise in unemployment and underemployment Browning, ; Marks et al. Ethnographic work has highlighted how compromised educational and economic opportunities, as well as perceived loss of freedom, undermined the likelihood that men will marry Anderson, Dickson noted that women are encouraged to pursue education, secure employment, and be self-reliant in communities where there is a shortage of marriageable men, as in the Black community.

Black women have traditionally worked in the labor force to help sustain their families, but over time, they have become even more independent and less likely to marry solely for financial support Hill, ; Jones, ; Taylor et al. Available Black females outnumber Black males as a result of mortality, morbidity, and imprisonment among Black males and increased longevity for Black females Lane et al. The availability of mates in the marriage market affects the likelihood of marital formation and longevity Hopkins-Williams, Despite considerable attention to macro-level influences that impact Black unions, only a fraction of the variations in relationship patterns can be attributed to structural factors such as employment, education, sex ratio, and incarceration Cherlin, ; Wilson, We review these two relationship dynamics next.

Research suggests that slavery in the U. Enslaved Black men were customarily removed from their families and communities, and thus, their function in family life was often more biological than social or financial Boyd-Franklin, ; Franklin, ; Staples, Slavery conditions may have significantly undermined the formation of permanent unions and the leadership roles of Black men in their families Pinderhughes, Given the marginal roles relegated to Black men within their families and the history of strained gender relations that may be attributable to harsh slavery conditions, communication challenges and confusion about gender roles between Black men and women developed Franklin, ; Hatchett, ; Pinderhughes, This confusion in the gender roles between Black men and women can be traced to fluidity in gender roles between the two genders; gender roles were flexible out of economic necessity.

Relational challenges, negative orientations and attitudes, and difficult interactional styles between Black men and Black women were passed on to younger generations through socialization Boyd-Franklin, ; Browning, ; Johnson, Franklin offers an illustration of how conflicting sex roles may operate: In addition, the spirit of independence and a sense of personal rights among Black women, which developed out of the necessity for coping with persistent inequality, may strain couple relationships between Black men and Black women Hill, ; Johnson, In addition to gender relations, another micro-level factor to consider relates to interpersonal trust, which we address next.

Having considered macro-level and micro-level factors that impact Black relationships, we now turn our attention to the rationale for this study. Few investigations of relationships have adopted a within-group analysis approach and focused exclusively on Black men. There are gaps in the literature on Black men, particularly with regard to type of samples and kind of methodologies employed. Much of the research in this area has employed quantitative methodology with larger samples, and has focused on the influential role of education, employment, intermarriage, and nonmarital childbearing on marital behavior.

Several qualitative studies have been conducted but have primarily used samples of women or couples e. No study of which we are aware has sought the perspective of married Black men to better understand why a disproportionate number of Black women are single. Although Black women may offer the best insight on these experiences, we interviewed Black men to capture their unique perspectives on the issues.

Therefore, we believe that the results of this study add to the literature. We felt that a qualitative inquiry could provide a richer understanding of these issues elucidated by Black men than had been obtained using survey measurements in quantitative studies. The purpose of ProSAAM was to examine the role of prayer and skill-based intervention in strengthening African American marital relationships.

The sample was recruited from metropolitan Atlanta and northeast Georgia through referrals and advertisements at churches, community centers, radio shows, print media, and local businesses frequented by Black couples and families for more details, visit http: Of the couples who participated in ProSAAM, husbands had completed their three-year follow-up assessment by December 1, , marking their completion of the larger ProSAAM study and were thus eligible for participation in the present study called Pathways to Marriage.

Fifty-two men consented to participate. The men were enrolled on a first-come, first-served basis. A brief survey was administered to the participants to collect demographic information.

The mean age for the study participants was 43 range 27— All men reported their race as Black; one man identified himself as a Cuban American while all the others self-identified as African American.

Black was used to describe the race of the sample in order to include ethnicities such as Cuban American and African American. All of the men were married. Most men fathered two biological children range 0 —7. Most men reported living in a home with two children range 0 — 3.

This sample of Black men recalled being romantically involved including dating and marriage with their wives for 16 years on average range 3 — 41 years; one participant gave no response. Seventy-three percent of the men had not been married previously.

The average length of their current marriage was 14 years range 2 — The 52 men were interviewed in their homes or another setting of their choice e. The interviews were semi-structured, and were the primary method of data collection. Each interviewee was assured anonymity and strict confidentiality of the data collected. Two married Black male interviewers conducted the interviews between January and April The men were asked about the meaning of marriage, marital socialization, their motivations for marrying and staying married, factors that helped to encourage and sustain marriage, barriers to or challenges in staying married, commitment attitudes, and their participation in ProSAAM Hurt, For these analyses, we examined the advice men provided regarding the disproportionate number of Black women who are single.

The two interviewers digitally recorded each interview, and the recordings were electronically submitted to a transcriber. Undergraduate research interns listened to the digital recordings and read the transcripts simultaneously to verify complete transcription since the transcriber was not a member of the research team Carlson, The interview transcripts were used for the data analyses. The two interviewers underwent extensive training with the first author, learning interviewing techniques and the ethical collection and handling of interview data.

The interviewers also listened to eligibility requirements for the men's participation. The men must have been 1 married, 2 self-identified their ethnicity as African American or been married to an African American spouse, 3 took part in ProSAAM, and 4 completed their 3-year follow-up interview.

The first author also reviewed study goals, the interview protocol, and the background for each question with the interviewers. When the interviewers sensed that the men could say more about their experiences and offer a more detailed account of their perspectives or experiences during the interviews, they frequently encouraged the interviewee to talk more specifically about the issue.

In such instances, the interviewer often relied on non-verbal cues and other observations of the manner in which the respondent answered the question. The interviewers were trained to ask questions in an open-ended way so that the participants would share their opinions and experiences more fully. The interviewers followed a consistent line of questioning and only probed where necessary. This style of interviewing permitted a more holistic understanding of what the participants thought and felt about the issue under study.

Nonetheless, in light of the more individualized nature of qualitative inquiry and the semi-structured method of interviewing, the interviewers adapted their line of questioning with the men, re-articulating questions or phrasing them differently to ensure the participants understood what was being asked. Communication between the first author and the interviewers was maintained throughout the 4-month data collection process. The interviewers met semi-monthly in person with the research team and communicated weekly with the first author about their progress in the field.

Through in-person meetings, emails, phone conversations, and documented reflections on the digital recorders, the interviewers reported important themes and impressions from their field observations.

The research team regularly checked the interview recordings to make certain that the interviewers were following the interview protocol in their lines of inquiry and were practicing effective interviewing techniques.

During the analysis phase, the authors shared the following demographic characteristics: This group included four Black women and one White woman. The team of authors analyzed the interview data in a collaborative way. Over a period of 18 months, the authors met for data retreats every 2 to 3 months in person.

Pioneer Obits C

The two interviewers underwent extensive training with the first author, learning interviewing techniques and the ethical collection and handling of interview data. The interviewers also listened to eligibility requirements for the men's participation.

The men must have been 1 married, 2 self-identified their ethnicity as African American or been married to an African American spouse, 3 took part in ProSAAM, and 4 completed their 3-year follow-up interview. The first author also reviewed study goals, the interview protocol, and the background for each question with the interviewers. When the interviewers sensed that the men could say more about their experiences and offer a more detailed account of their perspectives or experiences during the interviews, they frequently encouraged the interviewee to talk more specifically about the issue.

In such instances, the interviewer often relied on non-verbal cues and other observations of the manner in which the respondent answered the question. The interviewers were trained to ask questions in an open-ended way so that the participants would share their opinions and experiences more fully.

The interviewers followed a consistent line of questioning and only probed where necessary. This style of interviewing permitted a more holistic understanding of what the participants thought and felt about the issue under study. Nonetheless, in light of the more individualized nature of qualitative inquiry and the semi-structured method of interviewing, the interviewers adapted their line of questioning with the men, re-articulating questions or phrasing them differently to ensure the participants understood what was being asked.

Communication between the first author and the interviewers was maintained throughout the 4-month data collection process. The interviewers met semi-monthly in person with the research team and communicated weekly with the first author about their progress in the field. Through in-person meetings, emails, phone conversations, and documented reflections on the digital recorders, the interviewers reported important themes and impressions from their field observations.

The research team regularly checked the interview recordings to make certain that the interviewers were following the interview protocol in their lines of inquiry and were practicing effective interviewing techniques.

During the analysis phase, the authors shared the following demographic characteristics: This group included four Black women and one White woman. The team of authors analyzed the interview data in a collaborative way.

Over a period of 18 months, the authors met for data retreats every 2 to 3 months in person. The authors analyzed interview data that had been collected, transcribed, and archived. Next, data selection and condensation were carried out. Each author recorded her own self-reflections and interpretations in exploring the data for themes. In the spirit of member-checking, the two interviewers who gathered the data were asked to validate themes the authors identified in the data.

The interviewers were contacted via e-mail and asked to review a manuscript draft in which the results were detailed. Previous work has highlighted that member checking is best conducted when a finished product can be reviewed and interpretations are offered for themes and patterns Carlson, The interviewers reflected on the meetings they had with the husbands and agreed with the themes.

The 52 Black men cited various factors for the disproportionate occurrence of unmarried Black women; these factors were grouped into four themes: All participants quoted below have been given pseudonyms to protect their identities. Within each theme, the number of men who offered responses is detailed.

In some cases, participants provided more than one reason for the disproportionality in singlehood among Black women. As such, the number of responses may not necessarily equal the number of men expressed as percentage or sample size within each theme.

Lastly, most perspectives shared by the men are included in the results; we only omitted two responses. Collectively, the authors regarded these two responses as outliers, and not reflective of primary themes in the data. The husbands noted that many women are misguided in their approaches to attracting and keeping a mate. The men also discussed the negative effects of incarceration on relationships.

Further, the respondents underscored how the strong independent nature among some Black women challenges relationship formation and maintenance. The men also described how a decline in labor market opportunities impacts relationships. These factors are discussed in detail next. On the subject of setting standards too high or being a high maintenance woman, Steve also noted,. Victor, a year old who had been married for 5 years, agreed: They [are] not looking at their character; they [do not] care about looking at what they [are] made of [on] the inside.

A lot of Black women, they run their mates off nagging. You got a lot of single women—no fathers and kids. The reason they got no mates is cause they probably ran them off, yakking and wanting this and wanting that. Stop all that complaining and fussing and fighting and arguing.

Other men observed controlling behavior among women. For example, Kelvin, married for 22 years and 44 years of age, recommended this:. A second factor cited in the gender relations category is the impact of incarceration on relationship maintenance and formation. We present the data on this next. Forty-nine percent of the participants cited the effects of male incarceration on the availability of marriageable Black males.

Nolan, a year-old preacher who had been married for 24 years, drew on his experiences in prison ministry:. Drugs, stealing, most Black men trying to make a quick dollar to provide for their family and they just make mistakes doing that.

Incarceration of men was viewed as a reason for the higher proportion of singlehood among Black women. We now address a third factor cited in the gender relations category concerning the strong, independent stance that diminishes the likelihood of Black women partnering with a man.

The men also described a lack of knowledge among Black women about how to share the responsibility for managing a household with a mate, having spent years without a partner or a model. Lionel, 34 years old and married for 13 years, said,. They are some really peculiar creatures. You got women today, not only Black and women of color, but all women who are able to take care of, not only themselves, but a man and children.

The men believed that this strong sense of independence is especially acute among some women who are economically self-sufficient.

I would say otherwise. There was [a time when] the men [knew] how to be the man. Allen, married for 5 years and 52 years of age, believes that the pattern of women not depending on men in the Black community was set in motion during the time of slavery:. Now personally, I think that [it] started years ago when back in the day, you know… when the woman was the head of the household…she did all the work because the men were taken away or whatever.

And the Black women are more advanced, so much that why would I depend on a man who wants to live this kind of lifestyle when I can get out and be something myself? The strong independent stance of some Black women was regarded as a consideration. And for the women, we are not treating them like the queens that they are.

Forty-three-year-old James, married for 15 years, agreed that many young Black men are missing male role models:. We promote doing things but not really coming together for the long haul. The husbands pointed to the influence of men not meeting their responsibilities to their families and their communities as a reason for the higher number of Black women not being married.

The respondents also identified interpersonal trust—as well as the lack of trust—between Black men and women; we discuss this fifth factor next. Harold, a 54 year old married for 30 years, said,. Isaiah, 53 years old and married for 19 years, described learning about relationships from others as well and internalizing difficult experiences as well.

And to move on and say I can do this by myself. Because maybe they seen their mother do it…. While interpersonal trust issues are a concern, so is the decline in labor market opportunities and the availability of marriageable men to partner with Black women.

Five men described the employment challenges that Black men face. It used to be that a man went out and made the bread and brought it home. He went out, he killed a hog or a deer or what not, brought it home. Two other men agreed that Black women have outpaced Black men in the workforce. In addition to a decline in labor market opportunities, the men discussed the role of marriage education and socialization. More than one third of the men interviewed claimed that marriage as an institution is not being valued for its benefits, including the chance to journey through life with a partner and have someone to grow old with.

Moreover, as year-old Gene, who had been married for 19 years, pointed out, marriage training in families is not always positive:. Marriage… [There] is not a good class to teach you how to be a good husband or wife. The most you get you either going to get it from a friend, or a mother or father. Most of them do not know how to be one [a good husband or wife]. A common theme expressed were the changes in marriage socialization in contemporary society, in which the relationship development of both men and women has been deeply affected.

Most men discussed concern about the lack of marriage socialization among women. For example, the men reported feeling ill-prepared for relationships; they spoke about receiving inadequate relationship training from their mothers. Instead, their training entailed observing male-female relationships on the streets. As year-old Justin, married for 25 years, said,. In sum, responses from the men highlight variations in marriage education and socialization between Black men and Black women.

Indeed, marriage education and socialization for men and women is a critical factor and may figure into the disproportionate number of Black women remaining single. In addition to marriage education and socialization, the men reflected on the significance of individual development. They are focused on having a good time and enjoying the company of different women. According to these husbands, many Black men do desire marriage, but at the right time. Again, they recommended that women remain patient, assuring them that many men will choose to marry, in their own time.

While waiting to partner with a mate, the men advised Black women to focus on their own development and spiritual growth. Darrin proposed that women consider their desired qualities in a mate. The men recommended that women remain in prayer on the matter. Sixty-one-year-old Owen drew on his own personal experience and 22 years of marriage, recommending that dating couples attend religious services and activities together: Yeah, you know, because you be in the presence of God, you know, do what God want us to do… The way my wife did me.

They are gay lesbians. Drawing on qualitative data from interviews of 52 married Black men, this study explored why Black women are disproportionately single. Black women are less likely to marry or remarry than Black men or their female peers of other racial groups American Fact Finder, ; Banks, ; Taylor et al. The men, rather passionately, shared their opinions about the subject, reflecting on their personal experiences and observations of relationships in their families and communities.

The tone of some comments was emotionally-charged as has been noted in prior work Marbley, Study findings are notable and contribute to the literature on Black relationships in significant ways. Drawing on insights from the data, a contributing factor to relational challenges between Black adults concerns the manner in which some Black women pursue men for relationships Collins, ; Franklin, ; Hatchett, ; Hill, ; Pinderhughes, This may, in part, reflect a change in gender roles where it is more acceptable for women to pursue relationships.

Other results point to how, from the perspective of these Black men, some strong, independent, self-reliant attitudes and behaviors may unintentionally undermine the formation and maintenance of long-term committed relationships such as marriage. Some women recognize the benefits of marriage but describe themselves as being happily single and sharply focused on investing in oneself, motherhood, and careers Collins, The evidence is mixed, however, on whether increased participation of women in the labor force explains a decline in marriage e.

Though Black women have traditionally worked in the labor force to help sustain their families, over time women have become more self-reliant and less likely to marry solely for financial support Jones, ; White, Other findings related to gender relations draw attention to troubling conditions among Black men that challenge the probability of marriage. Regardless of the social inequalities they face, Collins asserted that Black men still must be held accountable for how they treat women, children, and each other.

A number of the Black men interviewed for this study focused on the role of individual factors. More than one-third of the men reported the need for marriage education and socialization, and how its absence may contribute to an increased proportion of Black women not marrying e. Moreover, according to social exchange theory, adults will only marry to the extent that they value marriage as offering more rewards than costs Hopkins-Williams, Broken and fractured relational bonds are a critical factor to consider, especially in communities where there is a prevalence of single-parent households as in the Black community.

According to Holman and Li , marriage readiness is socially constructed and, in part, dependent on whether an individual has achieved specific developmental milestones such as educational achievement and job security. They also discussed other work citing the significance of positive childhood experiences in preparing adults for marriage, including quality parent-child relationships and family relationships.

The consequences of same-sex partnering on declining numbers of mates available to partner in the marriage market has also been highlighted in earlier work Staples, This consideration in mate selection may increase the imbalanced sex ratio in the Black community.

There were a few limitations to this study. First, the results may not reflect the opinions of Black men residing in different regions of the United States, Black men from different ethnic groups, Black men with different relationship preferences, or Black men of different religious backgrounds.

Second, the sample was nonrandom. Third, the sample represents a group of highly committed married men, whose attitudes and values may be considered pro-marriage. Although the data were collected in northeast Georgia and metropolitan Atlanta, a part of the Bible Belt, we cannot assume that all research participants were highly religious.

In the final section, we outline several conclusions and future directions for study. Indeed, concerns about this imbalance have received considerable attention in the popular media.

Moreover, although there has been significant attention to Black relationships in the research literature, no known empirical study has investigated this issue directly with a sample of married Black men. These results validate key considerations that challenge relationship formation and maintenance between Black men and women, which have been identified in prior work.

This study extends the findings of previous research by presenting the results of qualitative interviews of 52 married Black men about these issues. Their reactions showed compassion and deep concern about the complexity of the issues facing Black women and men when forming long-term intimate relationships.

Reflections on their personal experiences on relationships and the social conditions needed for developing long-term relationships with Black women have provided a richer understanding of the issues under study.

Future studies could test these qualitative findings quantitatively using a more representative sample to determine the generalizability of the results. Other inquires might employ samples of single Black women or men who might be amenable to marriage to comment on the issues under study South, This would help to advance the field in important ways.

Future research projects exploring the singlehood of Black women could include samples of couples in order to explore the viewpoints of both partners in the dyad. Equally important, scholars could work with policymakers and legislators to address structural social inequities e. This research was supported by a grant awarded to the first author from the National Center for Family and Marriage Research.

The authors appreciate comments from Ms. Vernetta Johnson, along with Drs. Editorial assistance from Hazel Hunley was helpful. The first author wishes to thank Dr.

Steven Beach for permission to recruit men for this study from the Program for Strong African American Marriages sample. The authors are indebted to the 52 married Black men who openly shared their life experiences with the interviewers. National Center for Biotechnology Information , U. Author manuscript; available in PMC Jun Hurt , Stacey E.

McElroy , Kameron J. Sheats , Antoinette M. Landor , and Chalandra M. Correspondence should be addressed to Tera R. Jordan continues to publish using her maiden name Tera R.

Author information Copyright and License information Disclaimer. The publisher's final edited version of this article is available at Pers Relatsh. See other articles in PMC that cite the published article. Black, singlehood, marriage patterns, women, qualitative. Boyd-Franklin and Franklin wrote: Background The Mundane Environmental Stress Model served as a conceptual guide to help elucidate the processes by which structural factors may impact intimate relationships.

Gender Relations Research suggests that slavery in the U. Study Purpose Few investigations of relationships have adopted a within-group analysis approach and focused exclusively on Black men. Sample A brief survey was administered to the participants to collect demographic information. Procedures The 52 men were interviewed in their homes or another setting of their choice e.

Results The 52 Black men cited various factors for the disproportionate occurrence of unmarried Black women; these factors were grouped into four themes: For example, Kelvin, married for 22 years and 44 years of age, recommended this: Incarceration Forty-nine percent of the participants cited the effects of male incarceration on the availability of marriageable Black males. Nolan, a year-old preacher who had been married for 24 years, drew on his experiences in prison ministry: Forty-three-year-old James, married for 15 years, agreed that many young Black men are missing male role models: Marriage Education and Socialization More than one third of the men interviewed claimed that marriage as an institution is not being valued for its benefits, including the chance to journey through life with a partner and have someone to grow old with.

Moreover, as year-old Gene, who had been married for 19 years, pointed out, marriage training in families is not always positive: Discussion Drawing on qualitative data from interviews of 52 married Black men, this study explored why Black women are disproportionately single. Acknowledgments This research was supported by a grant awarded to the first author from the National Center for Family and Marriage Research.

Contributor Information Tera R. Journal of Black Studies. Allen W, James A. Comparative perspectives on Black family life: Uncommon explorations of a common subject. Journal of Comparative Studies. Sex by age Black or African American alone universe: Code of the street: Decency, violence, and the moral life of the inner city.

A multigenerational developmental perspective. Allyn and Bacon; Qualitative analysis on stage: Making the Research process more public.

Is marriage for White people?: How the African American marriage decline affects everyone. Journal of Marriage and Family. Enhancing the cultural sensitivity of marital enrichment through spirituality: The divergence of Black and White marriage patterns.

American Journal of Sociology. The consequences of marriage for African Americans. Institute for American Values; The making and breaking of affectional bonds. Love, sex, and masculinity on sociocultural context: HIV concerns and condom use among African American men in heterosexual relationships.

Racism, secret-keeping, and African-American families. Secrets in families and family therapy. Black families in therapy: Understanding the African American experience. Implications for training and supervision; pp. African-American couples in therapy. Race, culture, and gender in clinical practice. Qualitative studies in special education. A study commissioned by the UK relationship counselling service Relate found that many year-olds are now exhibiting the symptoms popularly associated with middle-aged men who suddenly start riding motorbikes and generally losing the run of themselves.

This early onset feeling of self-doubt, restlessness and fear of impending decrepitude is otherwise known as a "midlife thrisis". Its victims include celebrities like Jamie Oliver, the year-old chef who has recently taken to breaking down in tears during interviews and year-old Robbie Williams, who has abruptly got married and rejoined Take That in the last six months.

The award winning chef and food campaigner Jamie Oliver, who turned 35 this summer and now has four young children, might be expected to be happy and secure. But it's clear from his recent interviews, including one in which he wailed "there's still lots of people who don't like me. No one understands me, no one" that Jamie may be having a little thrisis of his own. Williams has owned up to having an "early midlife crisis" in the past, saying he coped by "shaving my head, getting an earring and riding fast motorbikes at the track to appear wind-swept and interesting".

The Take That star can at least look to his large personal fortune for comfort. For mere mortals, the accelerated onset of middle-aged angst is being blamed, largely, on the economy. The survey claims that the current generation of male, thirty-something Baby Gloomers are facing a sudden and unexpected deluge of torments that they may not be equipped to deal with.

For thirty-something men who came of age during the easy times of an unprecedented boom, the sudden change in fortunes is leading to a plague of 'oh-what's-the-point?

And the Relate study warns that the real killer is the widespread assumption, fuelled by the media and our political and business leaders, that things are not going to get better any time soon. Traditionally a man's thirties were the time for him to enjoy the fruits of his labours, in between his hardworking twenties and the inevitable slowing up and settling down period of his forties.

This decade of your life has, in the past, bought confidence, rewards for ambition and hard work and the sexual maturity to make the most of relationships. For Irish men such as Anthony, a year-old who was working as a sub-contractor in the building trade, the promise of the good-life in this decade has not been fulfilled.

Anthony, who asked that we did not use his full name, says "mid-life crisis" doesn't really cover what he and many of his friends are now dealing with. Not exactly making big plans because I was probably too busy enjoying myself, but I was confident that things were working out fine" he says. I've managed to find a couple of jobs here and there since and I'm currently re-training, but it's hard. Anthony's "few nights out" with his friends are dominated by talk about the difficult present and the uncertain future.

They are in their mid-thirties, they are struggling and it's like every time you turn on the radio or the six o'clock news there's more bad news. You can end up feeling pretty useless, like there's nothing for you to work towards. Colin Carroll is a year-old, solicitor and "adventurer" from Fermoy, Co Cork, who has spent much of his thirties undertaking a series of escapades, from biking across South America and taking part in Sumo wrestling for a TV project to organising his own 'Paddy Games' sports festival in Cork.

Colin says that 35 or over is a dangerous age for guys who have not yet settled down in a long-term relationship. Colin has his own recipe for dealing with the dreaded "thrisis" -- he's off on another adventure this month, taking a bike by ferry from Cork to Spain and then travelling down to North Africa to bike alone across the Sahara into the New Year. Colin's next big adventure might seem like the classic case of a guy acting out a mid-life crisis -- even if he is still a bit away from his fortieth.

But it fits with the hypothesis that 35 is now the new 45 for a lot of men. However, if that really is the case, then at what age can men finally expect to find a bit of peace and contentment? The current research tells us that a man will be at his happiest as he approaches his 74th birthday. It's apparently the time when wisdom and experience finally kicks in, when a man is finally let in on the punch line of life's long joke.

Little wonder, then, that year-olds are so unhappy. They are not even halfway to attaining true enlightenment and spiritual peace. Here the Mediterranean lifestyle meets the jet One year ago, Denise Gough was another actress hoping for her big break.

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