19 Dec Including Children in the Marriage Debate
Including Children in the Marriage Debate
December 19, 2007
Dear Friend of the Family,
good friend of mine used to say every Christmas that what he most liked to find under the Christmas tree was a family all wrapped up in each other. Finding and preserving family traditions and activities is one way to “wrap” our families together – that materializes in a more meaningful Christmas and creates long-lasting relationships. Family ties are particularly meaningful during the holiday season when most people think of the joys expressed in the popular song, “I’ll be home for Christmas.” The solidarity and security of home life have their beginnings in the marriage relationship. It is the foundation of the home and the key relationship that colors all other relationships in the family.
Successful marriages don’t just happen because two people “fall” in love. Successful marriages are built on hard work, sacrifice and personal unselfishness. Many who either cannot or will not pay such a price are promoting alternative lifestyles that claim their happiness in independence, adult rights and self gratification. Laura Kipnis, a professor of media studies at Northwestern University, suggests that since marriage no longer is an economic necessity, people have discovered they no longer need it:
“It restricts our choices and is too confining, which is why fewer people are marrying.” In the soon-to-be-released “Guide to Family Issues: The Marriage Advantage,” Marcia Barlow, author of the booklet, found social science that disputes the claim that marriage is a hindrance; rather it is highly beneficial to men and women, taxpayers and communities, reducing drain on social agencies to clean up domestic problems. On comparisons of happiness and health, married people fared better than non-married persons. Stable marriage has a substantial positive effect on the economic, physical, emotional and psychological well-being of men and women and dramatically improves the well-being of children. A wealth of social science research and data attest to this conclusion. Here is a sneak preview of just a few of the findings in our newest guide to family issues regarding the significance of marriage:
Marriage leads to:
A Healthier Society
“There are few things I know for certain, but here is one: All societies need a critical mass of healthy marriages in order to function well, and when societies lose that critical mass, they will forever be seeking new programs and services to cope with the ever increasing social problems that result from its absence.”
Wade Horn, “My Family Story,” The World Congress of Families III, March 29-31, 2004 Mexico City. (Assistant secretary for Children and Families, U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, U.S. Government)
Individual Health, Wealth and Happiness
People who are married report the highest levels of well-being, regardless of whether they are happily married or not. “Even when controlling for relationship happiness, being married is associated with higher self-esteem, greater life satisfaction, greater happiness, and less distress.”
Claire Kamp Dush and Paul Amato, “Consequences of Relationship Status and Quality for Subjective Well-Being,” Journal of Social and Personal Relationships 22, 5 (2005): 607-627.
Married people are happier and healthier than widowed, divorced, separated, cohabiting or never-married people, regardless of race, age, sex, education, nationality, or income.
Charlotte Schoenborn, “Marital Status and Health: United States, 1999-2002,” Advance Data from Vital and Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 351 (2004).
Women gain financially from marriage. Although married women often leave the workforce to care for children or other relatives, on average, they are still economically better off than divorced, cohabiting or never-married women.
Robert Lerman, “Married and Unmarried Parenthood and Economic Well-Being: A Dynamic Analysis of a Recent Cohort,” July 2002.
Creating the next generation of responsible citizens
The poverty rate for all children in married-couple families is 8.2 percent. By contrast, the poverty rate for all children in single-parent families is four times higher at 35.2 percent.
Robert Rector, Kirk Johnson and Patrick Fagan, The Effect of Marriage on Child Poverty, The Heritage Foundation, April 15, 2002.
A study of adolescents convicted of homicide in adult court found that at the time of the crimes, 43 percent of their parents had never been married, 29.5 percent were divorced and 9 percent were separated. Less than 20 percent of these children were from married parent households.
PatrickDarby et al., “Analysis of 112 Juveniles Who Committed Homicide: Characteristics and a Closer Look at Family Abuse,” Journal of Family Violence 13 (1998): 365-374.
A national study on drug abuse found that adolescents age 12-17 who live with their married biological parents are the least likely to use illicit drugs. Adolescents who lived with their father only or with their father and step-mother are the most likely to use marijuana or other illicit drugs.
John Hoffmann and Robert Johnson, “A National Portrait of Family Structure and Adolescent Drug Use,” Journal of Marriage and the Family 60 (August 1998): 633-645.
These studies and more indicate that the most important investments we can possibly make are in the time and energy dedicated to building happy marriages! May this Christmas season find you under your Christmas tree, with your family all wrapped up in each other!
President United Families International