System Justification and the Defense of Committed Relationship Ideology

Martin V. Day, Aaron C. Kay, John G. Holmes, Jaime L. Napier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A consequential ideology in Western society is the uncontested belief that a committed relationship is the most important adult relationship and that almost all people want to marry or seriously couple (DePaulo & Morris, 2005). In the present article, we investigated the extent to which the system justification motive may contribute to the adoption of this ideology. In Studies 1 and 2, we examined whether a heightened motive to maintain the status quo would increase defense of committed relationship values. In Study 3, we examined the reverse association, that is, whether a threat to committed relationship ideology would also affect sociopolitical system endorsement. As past research has found that the justification of political systems depends upon how much these systems are perceived as controlling, in Study 4 we tested whether the defense of the system of committed relationships would also increase when framed as controlling. Results from Studies 1-4 were consistent with our hypotheses, but only for men. In Study 5, using cross-cultural data, we sought to replicate these findings correlationally and probe for a cause of the gender effect. Results from more than 33,000 respondents indicated a relationship (for men) between defense of the sociopolitical system and defense of marriage in countries where the traditional advantages of men over women were most threatened. In Studies 6 and 7, we investigated when this gender difference disappears. Results revealed that when we measured (Study 6) or manipulated (Study 7) personal relationship identity rather than relationship ideology, effects also emerge for women.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)291-306
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of personality and social psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2011


  • Gender
  • Identity
  • Ideology
  • Relationships
  • System justification

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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