How Society Works

How Society Works

Can Cohabitation Lead To Fulfillment?

abstinence, Christianity, cohabitation, marriage, religion No comments
Obed Bazikian, Intern

Marriage Savers President Mike McManus relays in a recent articlea talk Pope Benedict XVI gave to United States Catholic Bishops in which he urged them to address the issue of cohabitation. Pope Benedict stated, “It is increasingly evident that a weakened appreciation of the indissolubility of the marriage covenant, and the widespread rejection of a responsible mature sexual ethic in the practice of chastity, have led to grave societal problems bearing an immense human and economic cost.”

There is a devaluing of the idea of commitment in our culture that is affecting U.S.couples from pledging their lives to each other. A possible cause for this is the population has become unhealthily focused on themselves. The individual is so elevated over his neighbor or community that if anything endangers personal happiness, it is avoided. Sadly, this has included marriage. However, science has claimed the opposite. One studyhas shown that “married couples enjoy more relationship quality and happiness than cohabiters.” The modern understanding of personal fulfillment and relationships has blinded us to the reality that in covenant there is actually increased happiness.
Perhaps an analogy can better explain the difference between cohabitation and marriage. If I could hold in hand my life, and then close my hand, I would certainly have and be able to enjoy my life. However, I would be unable to receive anything from others because my hand is closed. I may show at times what is in my hand, but in fear of losing what is mine, I never let go. However, if I was to open my hand and give up my life, only then am I in the position to receive life from another. It is the same regarding cohabitation and marriage. A cohabiter allows a glimpse to their partner, but never fully gives up his life. Only in the true commitment of marriage can one fully and wholeheartedly give and receive life and happiness.

“17 Filles”

education, fathers, marriage, poverty, teen pregnancy No comments
MARRI Interns
Raising children is something that is considered to be serious but very rewarding; it is not to be taken lightly. However, a recent movie, 17 Filles (“17 Girls”), by French directors Delphine and Muriel Coulin, demeans and trivializes what it takes and what it means to raise children. The arthouse film is based on the events at Gloucesterhigh school when 17 girls made a pact to all get pregnant and raise their children together. While there was overall displeasure with the events at Gloucester high school, 17 Filles in many ways encourages and glorifies these ambitious young women. The movie depicts the main character Camille as having killer looks and a Mean Girls-ish personality. She convinces the other envious girls that “having a bun in the oven is way cooler than having lots of friends on Facebook.”
Not only does this movie trivialize the responsibilities of raising children, but it also fails to convey the importance of raising children in an intact home. According to R. Rector: Analysis of CPS, in 2001 there were 3.93 million children living in poverty (See “Child’s Right to Marriage of Parents“). If those same parents were married, 3.17 million of those same children would leave poverty.
In addition, children living with a never married mother are 4.3 times more likely to get expelled or suspended from school than those living in an intact home. Finally, according to the Adolescent Health Survey, children raised in an intact home achieve significantly higher GPA’s than those living with a never-married mother, 2.9 v 2.5.
 
While single mothers should not be condemned or looked down upon, it is wrong to encourage and praise deliberately raising children without a father and completely dismiss the consequences.

“Cootie Contagion” and choosing marriage

culture, MARRI, marriage, social institutions No comments

MARRI Interns

Nostalgia for the middle school years gone by rarely rushes into the mind unaccompanied by a twinge of regret birthed by memory of our regrettable social ineptitude.  Awkwardness abounded at school social events, when the hermetically isolated genders were thrust together onto the middle school dance floor.  Those are days to which few would happily return.  Yet recent polling of young singles in Americasuggests that many in their 20s have not yet overcome their fear of the “cootie contagion,” and are therefore worried about commitment to marriage and relationships.
USA Today reports that in a poll of 5,541 adults who are either never married, or widowed, divorced, or separated, only 34.5% of the respondents answered affirmatively when asked “Do you want to get married?”  27% answered no, and 38.6% were uncertain whether they wanted to enter into a marital commitment. 
These findings illustrate broader trends, as Americans tend to view marriage as a nonessential social institution, and consequently neither desire nor pursue it for themselves.  Instead, sexual activity is increasingly detached from marital fidelity, as 55% of respondents report having a one-night stand, and 56% of respondents report having suffered infidelity.
But apart from these issues of sexual exclusivity, marriage confers numerous salutary benefits upon those who choose to engage in it.  Indeed, these benefits are some of the most unassailable and verified findings in all of social science.  Drawing on an abundance of social science research, the Marriage and Religion Research Institute has compiled some of these benefits into the convenient 162 Reasons to Marry in order to educate the public about the desirability of marriage.  If the polls cited above confirm that marriage is on the decline among young Americans, the social science data from numerous sources confirms that those who flee from marriage forfeit its numerous benefits and do themselves a disservice.  If we would avoid this preventable development, it is worthwhile to reevaluate our analysis of the marital bond.  In short, marriage deserves another look.  

Marriage, Reconcilliation and Hope

divorce, MARRI, marriage, no-fault divorce No comments
By Obed Bazikian, Intern

Andrea Mrozek of the Institute of Marriage and Family Canada wrote an articleabout strengthening marriage by addressing the issue of divorce. Mrozek advocates for reform to the no-fault divorce law in Canada, which not only allows couples to divorce without providing any legitimate reason, but a spouse can divorce their mate even if the other wants to work out their relationship. To be clear, this law has and does benefit those who are mistreated or in abusive relationships, which was the intention behind establishing no-fault divorce. However, since its establishment in Canada and like laws in other Western countries, divorce has become all too common.

 Mrozek references some interesting findings from The Institute for American Values. One studystates that of couples who have filed for divorce, 40% of one or both of them have a desire to be reconciled. Among Minnesota’sdivorced population, 66 percent wished that they would have tried harder to reconcile with their former spouse. An astonishing final study states that “two out of three unhappily married adults who avoided divorce or separation were happily married five years later.”
If the partners would make every effort to work out their differences, as the last study references, over 60 percent of potential divorces could be reconciled successfully and result in a happy marriage. That is exciting news. Marriage is hard work and requires a new level of self-sacrifice that most are not used to prior to their “I do’s.” But, if you stick it out, there are benefits on so many levels. The Marriage and Religion Research Institute’s 162 Reasons to Marry provides a detailed window into these different areas a committed marriage can profit not only yourself, but society. So if divorce is on your mind, seek a counselor and get help! There is hope for you and your marriage!

Meaning of Marriage

children, MARRI, marriage, poverty 3 comments
MARRI Interns
Charles Murray’s book Coming Apart has sparked a remarkable conversation about growing inequality in American culture. The upper and lower classes – or “Belmont” and “Fishtown” – “diverge in core beliefs and values,” which, in turn, begets a divergence in the role of marriage in society, as previously discussed on this blog. An article entitled “For Richer (Not for Poorer): The Inequality Crisis of Marriage” appeared in The Atlantic this week, continuing the discussion of growing class divergence in marriage rates. Author Nancy Cook argues that the economic consequences of increasing intermarriage among Belmont-dwellers and declining marriage rates in Fishtown could continue to sow the seeds of inequality. “Then consider the impact on the next generation,” she urges. “Well-educated, wealthy Americans will have more resources to spend on their children’s education, health, and enrichment; low-income people can offer fewer opportunities to help their offspring get ahead.”
 
Because, in Cook’s words, Americans are no longer “starry-eyed about marriage as an aspiration,” increasingly the definition of the institution becomes more obscured. What is marriage for, anyway? David and Amber Lapp went into Fishtown to ask this very question for Public Discourse. The majority of responses cited a subjective feeling of happiness or a “spark” with little consideration for permanence, service, or even children. Curiously, marriage was still considered to be a solemn, almost sacred, institution that should not be entered into lightly. “It is not out of disdain for marriage that working-class young adults delay marriage and begin families,” the Lapps write, “but out of reverence for it as something that ought not be broken.”

Marriage then becomes an empty set: it should not be entered into lightly, but what is it a couple is entering in the first place? While research from the Marriage and Religion Research Institute has demonstrated that marriage does have a positive effect on happiness, it appears this cannot realistically be the ultimate purpose of the institution if it is to last. Nevertheless, a number of the responses the Lapps received can be found in marriage, as MARRI’s 162 Reasons to Marry suggests. A reexamination of the meaning of marriage could help Fishtown out of its economic and social doldrums.

Gallup on Well-Being and Religion

culture, MARRI, religion, social institutions No comments
MARRI Interns
The incisive social critic H.L. Menken famously described Puritanism as “the haunting fearthat someone, somewhere, may be happy.”  In the eyes of a not insubstantial portion of the population, this sentiment has been mass-produced and broadbrushed across the entire landscape of religion.  Surely it is by now axiomatic that religious people are little more than repressed, uptight, morose discontents with personal vendettas to search out and destroy any wayward vestiges of amusement that might be illicitly had. 
But, as is often the case, a large body of research suggests otherwise.  A February 16, 2012, headline by the Gallup organization declares “Religious Americans Enjoy Higher Wellbeing.”  Gallup drew upon a massive sample of 676,000 interviews conducted over the course of two years to declare decisively that “the statistically significant relationship between religiousness and wellbeing holds up after controlling for numerous demographic variables.”  In six out of seven categories, including Life Evaluation Index, Emotional Health Index, Healthy Behaviors Index, Work Environment Index, and the Basic Access Index, very religious Americans score higher than nonreligious or moderately religious Americans (the exceptional category is the Physical Health Index). 
This research confirms earlier research conducted by MARRI, including studies detailing the Benefits of Religious Attendance and Religious Practice and Educational Attainment.  These and other studies demonstrate that the side effects of religious practice are unequivocally desirable and beneficial both to the wellbeing of the individual and the strength of the society.  Given this social science data, it would seem that the wit of Menken and the general suspicion against religion that his comments represent might be in need of revisitation and revision. Despite these popular misconceptions, the data demonstrate that religious people are undeniably, but perhaps not inexplicably, happy.

Knight in shining armor – a dying dream?

commitment, culture, fathers, feminism, MARRI, marriage, women No comments
Obed Bazikian, Intern
International Women’s Day on March 8 began as women stood up for their freedom against various oppressions. Yet, while many women stand up against oppression, certain aspirations in our culture are increasingly suppressed, including the longing for lasting commitment. Jim Anderson, in his book “Unmasked: Exposing the Cultural Sexual Assault,” goes into painful explanation of how so many women have, in search for commitment, given up what is most precious to them. Anderson says that women have subconsciously accepted that their worth is found in what they can offer a man, namely their sexuality. Many will sacrifice their body again and again thinking perhaps tonight, this man will be different. But with each hookup and breakup, the faint hope in their hearts for commitment fades.

Western culture has trained women to set their standards and expectations so low to accommodate an increasing population of men who have few to no standards at all. A recent article in the NY Times interviewed a 21-year-old single mom, Ms. Kidd, who had experienced her father abandoning her family at age 13 for her mom’s friend. Even though she expressed love for her child’s father, she could “not imagine marrying” him because she said, “I don’t want to wind up like my mom.” Acts like that of Ms. Kidd’s father are also teaching the current generation that commitment and marriage is not only a thing of the past, but instills belief and a fear to even think of entering it.

The question must be asked: How do we shift this culture around to value women and commitment? Research shows the value of marriage and commitment. Our society must pay attention to the empirical truths about marriage. A recent paper by the Marriage and Religion Research Institute, “162 Reasons to Marry,“ finds that “women raised in stable married families are more likely to marry,” and goes on to list 162 benefits to marriage, for both the couple and the children. Our culture lacks commitment, but an alternative exists. Paying attention to the research shows the strength of the family, and can help women see that a desire for commitment is not dead.

 

Does Family Structure Make a Difference?

crime, divorce, education, family, poverty 1 comment

MARRI Interns

What is Marriage? Many arguments are proffered as to why traditional marriage (between a man and a woman) needs to be defended. In the end, all arguments come down to the question, what is marriage and does marriage matter? Do intact marriages have any different positive benefits for those involved, whether it is the individuals in the relationship or the children? The Marriage and Religion Research Institute seeks to answer these questions by using the social sciences to show that there is clearly a difference between intact marriages and non-intact marriages.

There is overwhelming evidence supporting the numerous benefits that an intact married family provides. In terms of educational achievement, children who grow up in an intact family on average receive a 2.9 GPA as opposed to a 2.6 GPA for children living with a step-parent (See “Effects of Divorce”). Family background also has a significant impact on whether or not a child is ever expelled or suspended. According to the Adolescent Health Survey, 20.3% of children who grow up in an intact family have ever been expelled or suspended, compared to over 50% of children who grown up with parents who are never married (See “Watchmen on the Wall”).

Family background also plays a significant role in whether or not a child commits a crime. 
According to the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, 5% of children who live in an intact family have ever been arrested, compared to 13% of children who live in a cohabiting family.

Finally, marriage status influences family income. According to the Survey of Consumer Finance, intact families with children under 18 were on average worth $120,250, compared to divorced individuals with children under 18 who were only worth $27,800 (See “Child’s Right to Marriage of Parents”). Furthermore, 67% of children living with never married parents live in poverty compared to only 12% of children in intact families (See “Child’s Right to Marriage of Parents”).

The statistics here are only a small portion of the social science that MARRI has researched on the importance of a healthy family. In this culture of individualism that has been built in our nation, it is often forgotten that the family is what all societies are built upon and healthy families are what enable societies to last.

Class Structure and Trends in American Marriage

culture, family, human capital, MARRI, marriage No comments
MARRI Interns
Charles Murray has written a new book detailing some of the most unnerving yet under-reported demographic trends shaping Americatoday.  Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010 is his analysis of the contemporary American class structure which he argues is marked by a novel divergence of certain behaviors, including marital structure and religious activity.  The emphasis of his book is that these trends are novel because the highest and lowest classes in America“diverge on core behaviors and values” and consequently can “barely recognize their underlying American kinship.”

Murray’s longitudinal analysis of American culture from 1960-2010 identifies the cementation of the new lower classes around fundamental shifts in behavior in the areas of industriousness, honesty, marriage, and religiosity.  If it is true “the feasibility of the American project has historically been based on industriousness, honesty, marriage, and religiosity” and that these “founding virtues,” to use Murray’s phrase, have fallen into disfavor, these trends bear ill for the health of the society and the probability of success of the American project.

While I would not be the first to observe that Murray’s usage of data is idiosyncratic, it does highlight well-documented trends in the decline of marriage and simultaneous rise of divorce while adding the interesting gloss that these trends are now a signally defining rift between the lower class and the upper class.  Since, as our research shows and as Murrayrightly notes, “family structure that produces the best outcomes for children, on average, are two biological parents who remain married,” the generational effect is compounded, further widening the rift between these classes.

Of foremost importance is the issue of marriage: “I have chosen to present class divergence in marriage first because it is so elemental.  Over the last half century, marriage has become the fault line dividing American classes.”  While the notion that articulating afresh and reinvigorating monogamous, heterosexual, lifelong marriage—that form of marriage that study after study demonstrates is most stable and most beneficial to the child—and committed religious affiliation and practice would be a panacea for the multifarious ills which afflict modern society is unacceptably reductionist, it is likewise facile to overlook the critical position occupied by both marriage and religion in exercising a causal link to the health and success of society as a whole.  While honesty itself is a relatively nebulous, intangible, unquantifiable measure in the social sciences, industriousness is explicitly quantifiable.  The wealth of research that is often cited on this blog demonstrates the correlation between industriousness and marriage; economic productivity increases as marriage increases, and men who never marry (or who have unstable relational lives) do not experience the same economic benefits as married persons enjoy.  Thus, we find that three out of Murray’s four barometers (the fourth, honesty, being difficult to quantify.  Murray himself equates it with adherence to the law) of societal health are inextricably bound together.

The analysis provided by Coming Apart adds another tome to the ever-expanding library of studies documenting the fact that marriage and religion are critical to the flourishing of society in general and of Americain particular.  The Marriage and Religion Research Institute is at the forefront of documenting these longitudinal shifts in American society through our Family Trends annual update that summarizes the findings of a number of peer-reviewed, academic journals. For those interested in longitudinal studies of American society, reading Murray’s analysis alongside MARRI’s trendline data will undoubtedly elucidate some of the unexpected yet undeniably significant demographic trends shaping modern America

Importance of Being Married and Religious Attendance

Christianity, culture, MARRI, marriage, religion No comments

By MARRI Interns

A recent Mississippi State University (MSU) study was conducted to find possible reasons for marital longevity, particularly among African American couples. Keri Collins Lewis reports on the researchdone by MSU professors Tommy M. Phillips, assistant professor in MSU’s School of Human Sciences, and Joe D. Wilmoth, associate professor in the School of Human Ecology at Louisiana State University, who focused on long standing married couples in historically black churches in Mississippi. Overall, African-American couples believed that their marital success is attributed to faith, with specific denotation to help from God more than any other category.
 
The self-assessed questionnaire used in the study contained open-ended questions and forced-choice questions, the first of which asked both spouses together for the top reason their marriage endured. The results were “God/Jesus” first (51%), then love (31%), and good communication (23%) third. God, or Jesus, is recognized by more than half of those studied as the enduring factor in marriage. In a society that is becoming increasingly secular, this is not to be taken lightly. Later questions asked individually further explain this point. Spouses were asked separately whether faith was important to their marital longevity, upon which 93 and 94 percent of husbands and wives respectively agreed “faith was a very important factor.” Regarding prayer, 88 and 97 percent of husbands and wives respectively pray one or more times per day. And church attendance: 91 and 99 percent attend once or more per week.
 
Marriage and Religion Research Institute has published research from the General Social Survey which shows marriage is highly valued among many who practice their faith. In the Mapping America series number 82, The Personal Importance of Being Married by Religious Attendance, it states, “Adults who attend religious services at least weekly are more likely to report that being married is personally very important to them than those who worship less frequently.” The data used in the paper is collected from the General Social Survey (1972-2006), and concluded that 60.5 percent of adults who attend religious services more than once a week view marriage as very important. The people who take marriage more seriously are indeed people of faith and it is incumbent upon those who practice faith to see marriage succeed, both personally and in others.
There are two possible arguments against the veracity of this study. One is that this finding is representative of only 71 couples. However, while this study is small, it is valuable because of its focus. Dr. Phillips’s study states most previous studies on black couples have been “problem-oriented” with little exploration of marital longevity. A second critique may by that the research targeted black churches instead of the black population as a whole. Critics might therefore see this study as biased and discredit the results. However, as Lewis uncovers from Dr. Wilmoth, this method was with good reason: “‘When we looked for ways to find African-American couples with long-standing marriages, we discovered the most reasonable way to contact them was through their churches,’ Wilmoth said. ‘We believe our sample is reasonably representative because almost 90 percent of African Americans identify themselves with a church, and those who are married are even more likely to attend.’” Since a majority of married black couples attend church, it is logical and practical to focus on finding couples in the church, and to consider the results of this study informative as to reasons for marital longevity.