Shopping for a husband doesn't necessarily mean living happily ever after.

A study by University of Michigan sociologists has found that women who "comparison shop" for potential husbands by dating extensively say they experience no greater marital happiness than those who marry their first sweethearts.

How much in love women were with their intended husbands at the time of the wedding and the way the couple later structured day-to-day relations were much more important factors than the women's dating experience in determining the quality of the marriage, according to Martin K. Whyte.

Whyte and his colleagues interviewed more than 450 Detroit-area women who married in different eras: 66 between 1925 and 1944, 180 wed during the baby boom years of 1945 to 1964 and 209 women who married between 1965 and 1984.

Whyte did not interview their husbands. Participants were asked to estimate, however, the numbers of men they had dated, the number of steady boyfriends and whether they had had premarital sex.

They were asked if their husbands talked to them, demonstrated affection toward them, showed concern for their feelings and spent leisure time with them. They were also asked to rate how satisfied they were with their marriage and to indicate whether it had ended in separation or divorce.

Among Whyte's findings: more than one woman in four was divorced. Whyte said he was surprised by the results. "In our American dating culture, it has been an absolutely fundamental belief that dating has a purpose and that people with extensive dating experience make better choices," he said. "But that's turned out not to be the case."