Marriage was once seen as a permanent bond intended to promote monogamous love, spousal devotion, and childrearing. Today, however, many view marriage, or rather its deliberate avoidance, as a means of defying tradition, asserting feminist ideologies, and/ or avoiding commitment. Perhaps most alarming, the mainstream public is supportive but ignorant of the consequences of this shift.
A Pew Study released Wednesday reveals that 50 percent of adults believe that society is just as well off if people have priorities other than marriage and children, whereas only 46 percent believe society is better off if people make marriage and having children a priority. However, social science data suggests otherwise. In marriage are contained the five basic institutions—the basic tasks—of society: family, church, school, marketplace and government. MARRI research has emphasized the multitude of benefits the intact, married family confers on children as they learn to value and perform these five fundamental tasks. A few of these advantages are highlighted below.
Families with either biological or adoptive parents present have the highest quality of parent-child relationships, perhaps because marriage enhances an adult’s ability to parent. Married people are more likely to give and receive support with their parents and are more likely to consider their parents as means for possible support in case of an emergency.
Furthermore, those who marry experience increased commitment and stability. Men raised in married families have more open, affectionate, and cooperative relationships with the women to whom they are attracted than do those from divorced families. Correspondingly, married mothers report more love and intimacy in their romantic/spousal relationships than cohabiting or single mothers.
A larger fraction of adults who grew up in an intact married family than from non-intact family structures attend religious services at least monthly. Those from married families are less likely to see religion decline in importance in their lives, less likely to begin attending church less frequently, and less likely to disassociate themselves from their religious affiliation.
Children of married parents are more engaged in school than children from all other family structures. Individuals from intact families completed, on average, more years of schooling and were more likely to graduate from high school and college than were their peers raised in non-intact families. High school students in intact families have GPAs 11 percent higher than those from divorced families.
Intact married families have the largest annual income and the highest net worth of all families with children (widowed families excepted). Married couples file less than half of all income-tax returns, but pay nearly three-quarters of all income taxes. Marriage increases the income of single African-American women by 81 percent and single white women by 45 percent; African-American men also see an increase in income after marriage.
Crime. Adolescents from intact families are less delinquent and commit fewer violent acts of delinquency. Likewise, a lower fraction of adults and youths raised in intact families are picked up by police than those from non-intact families.
Violence and Abuse. Marriage is associated with lower rates of domestic violence and abuse, in comparison to cohabitation. Correspondingly, Children in intact married families suffer less child abuse than children from any other family structure. Compared to teenagers from intact families, teenagers from divorced families are more verbally aggressive and violent toward their romantic partners.
Health. Married men and women are also more likely to have health insurance. A lower fraction of married than widowed, divorced or separated, never-married, or cohabiting persons have fair to poor health. Married people are least likely to have mental disorders, and have higher levels of emotional and psychological well-being than those who are single, divorced, or cohabiting.
This data indicates that, contrary to popular opinion, society will not be “just as well off” if marriage and childrearing is neglected or even rejected. Marriage is the foundational relationship for all of society, and a prerequisite for a prosperous nation.
Thinking otherwise, half of Americans are out of touch with reality.
(For full citations, please see the MARRI’s synthesis paper “164 Reasons to Marry”)