Why Marriage Matters: Twenty-Six Conclusions from the Social Sciences

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Why Marriage Matters, 2nd Ed.Why Marriage Matters, Second Edition:
Twenty-Six Conclusions from the Social Sciences

Ordering Information

Sixteen of the top scholars on family life have re-issued a joint report on the importance of marriage. First released in 2002, the newly revised edition highlights five new themes in marriage-related research.

Why Marriage Matters, Second Edition: 26 Conclusions from the Social Sciences was produced by a politically diverse and interdisciplinary group of leading family scholars, chaired by W. Bradford Wilcox of the University of Virginia and includes psychologist John Gottman, best selling author of books about marriage and relationships, Linda Waite, coauthor of The Case for Marriage, Norval Glenn and Steven Nock, two of the top family social scientists in the country, William Galston, a Clinton Administration domestic policy advisor, and Judith Wallerstein, author of the national bestseller The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce.

Since 1960, the proportion of children who do not live with their own two parents has risen sharply—from 19.4% to 42.3% in the Nineties. This change has been caused, first, by large increases in divorce, and more recently, by a big jump in single mothers and cohabiting couples who have children but don’t marry. For several decades the impact of this dramatic change in family structure has been the subject of vigorous debate among scholars. No longer. These 26 findings are now widely agreed upon.

Five New Themes

In addition to reviewing research on family topics covered in the first edition of the report, Why Marriage Matters, Second Edition highlights five new themes in marriage-related research.

  1. Even though marriage has lost ground in the minority communities in recent years, marriage has not lost its value in these communities.
  2. An emerging line of research indicates that marriage benefits poor Americans, and Americans from disadvantaged backgrounds, even though these Americans are now less likely to get and stay married.
  3. Marriage seems to be particularly important in civilizing men, turning their attention away from dangerous, antisocial, or self-centered activities and towards the needs of a family.
  4. Beyond its well-known contributions to adult health, marriage influences the biological functioning of adults and children in ways that can have important social consequences.
  5. The relationship quality of intimate partners is related to both their marital status and, for married adults, to the degree to which these partners are committed to marriage.


Update Research Findings

Among the research findings summarized by the report are:

About Children

  • Parental divorce reduces the likelihood that children will graduate from college, and achieve high-status jobs.
  • Children who live with their own two married parents enjoy better physical health, on average, than children in other family forms. The health advantages of married homes remain even after taking into account socioeconomic status.
  • Parental divorce approximately doubles the odds that adult children will end up divorced.

About Men

  • Married men earn between 10 and 40 percent more than single men with similar education and job histories.
  • Married people, especially married men, have longer life expectancies than otherwise similar singles.
  • Marriage increases the likelihood fathers will have good relationships with children.  Sixty-five percent of young adults whose parents divorced had poor relationships with their fathers (compared to 29% from non-divorced families).

About Women

  • Divorce and unmarried childbearing significantly increases poverty rates of both mothers and children. Between one-fifth and one-third of divorcing women end up in poverty as a result of divorce.
  • Married mothers have lower rates of depression than single or cohabiting mothers.
  • Married women appear to have a lower risk of domestic violence than cohabiting or dating women. Even after controlling for race, age, and education, people who live together are still three times more likely to report violent arguments than married people.

About Society

  • Adults who live together but do not marry—cohabitors—are more similar to singles than to married couples in terms of physical health and disability, emotional well-being and mental health, as well as assets and earnings.  Their children more closely resemble the children of single people than the children of married people.
  • Marriage appears to reduce the risk that children and adults will be either perpetrators or victims of crime. Single and divorced women are four to five times more likely to be victims of violent crime in any given year than married women. Boys raised in single-parent homes are about twice as likely (and boys raised in stepfamilies three times as likely) to have committed a crime that leads to incarceration by the time they reach their early thirties, even after controlling for factors such as race, mother’s education, neighborhood quality and cognitive ability.


Fundamental Conclusions

The authors conclude with three fundamental conclusions:

  1. Marriage is an important social good, associated with an impressively broad array of positive outcomes for children and adults alike.
  2. Marriage is an important public good, associated with a range of economic, health, educational, and safety benefits that help local, state, and federal governments serve the common good.
  3. The benefits of marriage extend to poor and minority communities, despite the fact that marriage is particularly fragile in these communities.

50 Reasons Why Marriage Rocks!

List building is always a great way to put things into perspective. A while ago Shannon wrote a great post about the top 50 Reasons to Have More Sex. Then,more recently, she wrote and challenged everyone to write the 100 Reasons She Loved me. Now it’s my turn.

Here are the 50 reasons marriage rocks!

1. Married couples typically live longer

2. Married couples have more sex than single people

3. You don’t have to be in the dating world!

4. You have a built in fan.

5. You can pass gas and burp in front of them without it being a deal breaker.

6. You always have a make out buddy

7. A spouse can make you laugh even when you don’t want to

8. Married couples earn more money.

9. You have a Valentine all 365 days of the year.

10. Having someone to keep you warm at night is cozier & less expensive than an electrical blanket.

11. Sex gets better the longer you are together.

12. You spouse knows everything about you and still loves you.

13. There is always someone to celebrate with you.

14. You get to take advantage of marriage tax breaks.

15. If you have kids, there is a united front of support.

16. You always have someone to talk to.

17. Married people have less incidence of depression.

18. You have someone to take care of you when you are sick.

19. A spouse challenges you to be the best you can be.

20. and then they help you reach your goals.

21. Road trips are fun with each other.

22. You are never alone.

23. You always have a movie buddy.

24. You get to turn their idiosyncrasies that can be annoying into cute quirks instead.

25. A wedding ring on a man is hot- it’s your best accessory. (Believe me, your wife & other women thinks it is sexy)

26. You always have a sounding board.

27. You complement each other.

28. There are benefits to watching chick flicks. (guys, you hearing me? Utilize this!)

29. The longer you are married the more inside jokes you have with each other.

30. You have someone to discuss current events with.

31. When at a restaurant you can have a great time trying to pick out the first date’s vs. the other married couples.

32. No one will ever love you as much as your spouse does.

33. It’s great having someone to rub your feet or back.

34. It’s nice to be able to rub your spouse’s feet and back.

35. It’s awesome when rubbing your spouse’s feet or back turns into something more.

36. One of you can try a new dish while the other get’s the “standard” and because you are sharing, you still come out ahead.

37. When you look in their eyes, you feel that you are home.

38. You learn greater patience than you ever could as a single person.

39. You get to grow old together gracefully.

40. You have a  built-in cheering section.

41. You have an opportunity to practice service & love daily.

42. They’ve “got your back”.

43. They believe in you when you might not.

44. They remind you of who you really are.

45.  You have a hand to hold when you go to the doctor for scary tests or procedures.

46. Your give/receive muscle gets exercised daily.

47. There’s someone to laugh at your jokes.

48. And someone to tell you the truth when no one else has.

49. It’s an exclusive journey only the two of you will ever share.

50. Marriage is a glorious adventure of growth, refinement, evolution & love!

Loving your spouse more than your kids

One of the fastest growing divorce rates in the country is couples age 50-57 years old. I believe that has to do with the destructive trend of mom’s and dad’s putting the kids above their relationship.

I absolutely agree with this author! To go one step deeper, we actually have that conversation with our kids. I started telling my kids a few years ago that although I love them and would die for them, their mom is the most important thing in my life. That mom and I are a united front and unless there is something dangerous or illegal going on, I will always choose mom over them and she me.
In our marriage events, my wife and I call it the hierarchy. Sometimes we get some push back, especially from women, about it but I always explain: If as a dad I can teach my daughters to find a man who treats and feels for them the same way I do their mom and if my son grows up to treat his wife with the same admiration and respect as I do for his mom, then I will have done my job on this earth.

Check out what this author has to say about it.

Financial mistakes that can ruin marriage

Here is a great article from Yahoo Finance via Forbes Magazine. The author confirms the main points we show couples in the Business of Marriage.

When I was a child, my father used to joke with me saying, “Nancy, remember, it is just as easy to fall in love with a rich guy as a poor one.” There is always some truth in a joke and looking back on this saying as an adult, it is obvious that he was steering me toward what he hoped was a happy life rather than a life of what he perceived would be a struggle. He is old fashioned and didn’t think that a girl could create her own financial security (that is fodder for another blog) but his intentions were good. In my career as a financial adviser turned financial educator, I have worked with hundreds of couples and have seen firsthand how money problems, worries and other financial issues can lead to unhappy marriages. If left unchecked, financial problems can ultimately destroy a marriage.

Money and marriage is an age old problem. I’ve seen many societal and economic changes over my 25 year career: incredibly high interest rates in the 80’s, a raging bull market in the 90’s, the stock bubble bursting in 2000, the rise of 401(k) plans replacing defined benefit pension plans, as well as the most recent financial crisis. However, during good or bad economic times some things never change — couples are still fighting about money. In many cases, they are the very same things couples were fighting about 25 years ago. According to research as well as my own experience working with couples and money, here are the top five money conflicts that lead to marital strife and ultimately divorce.

Materialism — valuing “things” or money over the relationship. Research on marriage has shown that couples who are materialistic rate at the bottom of the happiness scale. A recent study by BYU and William Jefferson University found that spouses who were BOTH materialistic were worse off on nearly every relationship measure they looked at. It wasn’t the lack of money that was the culprit; the authors found that it was materialism itself that created much of the difficulty even when couples had plenty of money.

I saw this firsthand with a former client of mine named Yolanda who unknowingly fell into the materialism trap and nearly destroyed her marriage because of it. She is a first generation American with immigrant parents from Guatemala. She had a misguided notion in her head that if she had a beautiful home nicely decorated with a formal dining room and a landscaped yard for her family to live in then she would be happy. It was almost as if she had a picture of the American Dream and she had to step into that picture and become that person to be happy.

She insisted her husband buy a home they could barely afford along with Ethan Allen furniture and a landscaped backyard — going into debt to do it. This may not seem like materialism because we are not talking diamonds and furs here. We are talking about a dining room table but none-the-less, her focus was on accumulating things instead of on her marriage and family. Fortunately for her, this story doesn’t end tragically. When her mother passed away, something triggered in her that completely changed her outlook on her values. She got a much needed wake-up call about what was really important in life before it was too late.

Click here for the rest of the article

How are celebrities effecting your marriage?

Every day, men and women from around the world meet, date and plan their wedding. When vowing their unfailing love, couples envision living happily ever after with each other. They do not plan to sever their relationship. Yet today’s divorce rate remains close to 50%. I believe statistics, celebrity behavior and our personal histories influence this trend.

Statistically, we hear about the 50% marital failure rate in middle school health class. As we grow into adulthood, we continue to hear this statistic from professors, media sources and firsthand experience as our family or friends experience marital demise. With this indoctrination, we more readily perpetuate the divorce rate. After our wedding, this feeling of hopelessness toward marriage erodes our commitment. Every disagreement with our spouse and every friend who faces marital demise cause us to question if we will become the next victim of the inevitable statistic.

Celebrity behavior influences popular opinion in our culture. With 24-hour television and internet access, we observe and even obsess over a celebrity’s every move. After constant exposure, we subconsciously accept their opinions, lifestyles and views. From Hollywood to sports stars, celebrity behavior perpetuates the normalcy of divorce, cohabitation and a marriage-less society. Daily, we hear of another celebrity wedding ending within a few months or even days. Tabloids display couples cohabitating and raising children out of wedlock. Multiple marriages have become normal rather than taboo. Celebrity personalities even stage wedding ceremonies as a marketing tool to advertise their brand, receive free services and publicity or avoid working for their fame. This cavalier attitude influences society against traditional marriage.

Continue reading How are celebrities effecting your marriage?