Friday, December 3, 2010

Who Needs Marriage?

From Renae Smith, NFI's Special Assistant to the President.

magazine’s recent cover article titled "Marriage: What's It Good For?" poses an interesting question. In an age when marriage has become much less important for both men and women to have companionship, security, professional success, respect, sex, or to conceive children, then who needs it?

The article, citing a new Time/Pew Research Center poll, reported that 39% of people think that marriage is becoming obsolete. That seems a little contradictory to their strong opinions about the importance of marriage to parenting.

  • 69% said it’s bad for society that more single women are having children without a male partner. (Only 4% said it was good.)
  • 43% said it’s bad that more unmarried couples are raising children (compared to 10% who thought this trend was good.)
  • 77% think it’s easier for married people to raise a family than single people.
People also think that the link between marriage and parenting is important for them personally.
  • 90% of men think that being a good mother is an important quality for a good wife; 93% of women think that being a good father is an important part of being a good husband.
  • 74% of men think that a good wife should put family before anything else; 82% of women think that a good husband should prioritize family first.
This is encouraging news, but forget, for a moment, about what the adults think is good for society or good for them personally. Let’s talk about what’s good for the ones who are affected most by the presence or absence of marriage – children.

Research clearly shows that children who live with married parents fare better, on average, than children in other family structures on measures of child well-being – academically, financially, emotionally, physically, and socially. Why? The data on the impact of father involvement on the well-being of children holds part of the answer. The number one way to guarantee that a father will be consistently present in his children’s lives is for him to be married to their mother.

Jennifer Braceras’s response in the Boston Herald to Time’s question “What is marriage good for?” tells us that “we have forgotten that marriage is not just about adult happiness, but also about the responsibilities of parenthood and preparing future generations to thrive and succeed.”

Roland C. Warren, president of National Fatherhood Initiative, answers a similar question, "Are fathers necessary?", by saying “ask the kids.”

Before dismissing marriage as obsolete, we need to ask who needs it most. The answer: children. Children’s profound need for the daily, long-term presence of their own mothers and fathers in their lives will never become obsolete.

1 comment:

  1. I found the methods of presenting the evidence in the article misleading at points.
    For example, it says that living together before marriage has no effect on divorce rate if there have been no prior marriages or cohabitations. While that may be true, it doesn't take into account how many people have lived together and decided to split rather than get married. If you're sharing everything but space on a marriage certificate, should not such a relationship have counted in this statistic?
    On the first page, it said that married people earned 12% more than single people as a household in 1960 vs 41% more in 2008. With the rise in not only women's earning power, but especially in the percentage of women in the workplace, the real surprise is that the change is not larger.
    All that being said, I still believe it is important for adults to get married. When a couple isn't married, it's easy to walk away. Sometimes, that walking away may be a great idea; sometimes, it may be a hot-headed mistake. What would be interesting to me is not divorce rates of people who have lived together vs those who haven't, but average length of all relationships of those two demographics.
    Maybe this is just me, but I would far rather have the feeling that my wife will be there for me and is dedicated to working out our marriage regardless of what either of us does than the feeling that I might be just one slip-up from losing my girlfriend.


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