By MARRI Interns The joy caused by the advent of the Super Bowl this Sunday quickly transforms into melancholy for many men who acknowledge with lamentation that the Super Bowl marks the termination of football season. How ought those men to spend those superfluous hours on Sunday that were previously occupied with football? A trove of social science research suggests quite strongly that it might be best for them, for their marriage, and for their children to head to church.
A number of prominent Evangelical leaders are rediscovering the importance of appealing to men to return to involvement in the church. Dr. John Piper’s 2012 Pastors Conference is entitled “God, Manhood, and Ministry: Building Men for the Body of Christ.” Pastor Mark Driscoll at Mars Hill Church of Seattle has long been an ardent advocate of masculine maturity exemplified through religious attendance and participation.
Perhaps this is all of no importance. Perhaps it is just another attempt by several pastors to fill their pews. Or perhaps these men are on to something far more significant about the nature and benefits of male participation in the life of the church. And indeed, it is this latter proposition that seems to be vindicated by much of the social science research that MARRI and others are doing. The social science bears out that it is not only ministry leaders who have reason to champion male reengagement with the church; male church attendance correlates with significant benefits for society as a whole, since it contributes to the stability of the family and the success of children.
These societal benefits are observed by a large number of researchers, among whom are W. Bradford Wilcox, whose book “Soft Patriarchs, New Men: How Christianity Shapes Fathers and Husbands” (U Chicago Press, 2004) treats this subject in great detail. Constraining his research only to a comparison between Conservative Protestants, Mainline Protestants, and fathers with no religious affiliation, Wilcox presents detailed evidence showing that Conservative Protestants are more likely to be involved fathers and loving husbands than are those of no religious affiliation at all:
Conservative Protestant married men with children are consistently more active and expressive with their children than unaffiliated men and are often more engaged with their children than mainline Protestant fathers. Furthermore, conservative Protestant family men are more likely than unaffiliated men to do positive emotion work in their marriages and are more consistently engaged emotionally in their marriages than mainline men. So the charges that conservative Protestantism fosters authoritarian and other stereotypical displays of masculinity among its family are overdrawn. [emphasis added]
Dr. Wilcox’s research shows that the impact of religion on family life is significant and well worth detailed study. That is why, in a forthcoming paper on the Effects of Religion on Marriage, MARRI presents a comprehensive picture of the benefits for marriage that accrue when partners participate in religious activity (particularly joint weekly worship). The forthcoming paper analyzes the effects of religion on marriage from a number of angles. MARRI’s Mapping America products virtually unanimously support the assertion that religion strengthens marriage in a number of significant and variegated ways.
So men, for the sake of your wife and your children, go to church this Sunday. Besides, unless your pastor is particularly long-winded, you’ll have plenty of time before the Super Bowl starts.
Ms. Copeland concludes that “Christianity may have brought monogamy to Europe and many other places, but those cultures succeeded because monogamy happened to suit them. In other words, as far as social evolution is concerned, the best form of marriage for a given society isn’t really about what’s moral, but what works.”
Libby Copeland’s concluding statement (that monogamy is best for society because it works, not because it is moral) gets the causation backwards: Monogamy works because it is moral. Christ gave his disciples tough standards in marriage– so tough his disciples’ initial reaction was “In that case, it is better for man not to marry.” Nevertheless, Christ prevailed and his disciples embraced this moral doctrine — and gave it as a gift to Western Civilization, not because it works (though it does), but because Christ so instructed (and still does, though Christians today on marriage — as in many times in the past on different aspects of Christ’s teachings — are very lax in obeying and following him).
There is a unity in Christian teaching, and its fruits come out repeatedly, in myriad ways: the good of women, of children, of the poor, and of the sick are just a few (and all its fruits are good for society– though, again, this is not why they are done). Monogamous marriage is just another in a long list of gifts to the West, and to mankind at large. We took it so much for granted we never realized it, until it started to fade. But ultimately it is not marriage that is failing, but Christians. Marriage of its nature does not fail — people flourish in marriage, when they live it. It works, but it takes moral effort. Christians would say it takes more at times: lots of grace and effort.
Libby Copeland writes for Slate on the effects of polygamy and monogamous marriage on crime in “Is Polygamy Really So Awful?” While we disagree with Ms. Copeland’s conclusion (that the best form of union for a society is best not because it is moral, but because it “works”), the research she references in her piece is extremely interesting. Read along:
History suggests that [plural marriage] is [harmful]. A new study out of the University of British Columbia documents how societies have systematically evolved away from polygamy because of the social problems it causes. The Canadian researchers are really talking about polygyny, which is the term for one man with multiple wives, and which is by far the most common expression of polygamy. Women are usually thought of as the primary victims of polygynous marriages, but as cultural anthropologist Joe Henrich documents, the institution also causes problems for the young, low-status males denied wives by older, wealthy men who have hoarded all the women. And those young men create problems for everybody.
“Monogamous marriage reduces crime,” Henrich and colleagues write, pulling together studies showing that polygynous societies create large numbers of unmarried men, whose presence is correlated with increased rates of rape, theft, murder, and substance abuse. According to Henrich, the problem with unmarried men appears to come primarily from their lack of investment in family life and in children. Young men without futures tend to engage in riskier behaviors because they have less to lose. And, too, they may engage in certain crimes to get wives—stealing to amass enough wealth to attract women, or kidnapping other men’s wives.
Ms. Copeland also addresses the effects polygamy produces for individual men, women, and children. These effects are consistently negative:
That polygyny is bad for women is not necessarily intuitive. As economist Robert H. Frank has pointed outwomen in polygynist marriages should have more power because they’re in greater demand, and men should wind up changing more diapers. But historically, polygamy has proved to be yet another setup that [harms] the XX set. Because there are never enough of them to go around, they wind up being married off younger. Brothers and fathers, realizing how valuable their female relations are, tend to control them more. And, as one would expect, polygynous households foster jealousy and conflict among co-wives. Ethnographic surveys of 69 polygamous cultures “reveals no case where co-wife relations could be described as harmonious,” Henrich writes, with what must be a good dose of understatement.
Children, too, appear to suffer in polygamous cultures. Henrich examines a study comparing 19th-century Mormon households, 45 of them headed by wealthy men, generally with multiple wives, and 45 headed by poorer men, generally with one wife each. What’s surprising is that the children of the poorer men actually fared better, proving more likely to survive to age 15. Granted, this is a small study, but it’s consistent with other studies, including one from Africa showing that the children of monogamous households tend to do better than those from polygynous households in the same communities. Why? Some scholars suspect that polygyny may discourage paternal investment. Men with lots of children and wives are spread too thin, and to make things worse, they’re compiling resources to attract their next wives instead of using it on their existing families.
For more on the benefits of intact, monogamous marriage for society and individuals, visit www.marri.us.
This version of the Index is a breakdown, state by state, of the data published in that 2011 Index. Each page compares individual state performance on various child outcomes (high school graduation rate, eighth grade NAEP reading scores, child poverty, and births to unmarried teenagers). This permits the comparison of each state to the weakest and strongest states in each outcome category. Because social policy is executed at the state level, a breakdown of this data state by state is natural and fitting.
We hope that this version of the Index will be informative to both state legislators and citizens.
Each year, over a million American children suffer the divorce of their parents. Divorce causes irreparable harm to all involved, but most especially to the children. Though it might be shown to benefit some individuals in some individual cases, over all it causes a temporary decrease in an individual’s quality of life and puts some “on a downward trajectory from which they might never fully recover.”
The paper discusses divorce’s effects across six categories:
·Family: The parent-child relationship is weakened, and children’s perception of their ability (as well as their actual ability) to develop and commit to strong, healthy romantic relationships is damaged.
·Religious practice: Divorce diminishes the frequency of worship of God and recourse to Him in prayer.
·Education: Children’s learning capacity and educational attainment are both diminished.
·The marketplace: Household income falls and children’s individual earning capacity is cut deeply.
·Government: Divorce significantly increases crime, abuse and neglect, drug use, and the costs of compensating government services.
·Health and well-being: Divorce weakens children’s health and longevity. It also increases behavioral, emotional, and psychiatric risks, including even suicide.
Our latest Mapping America (110: Children’s Peabody Individual Achievement Test math percentile norms) shows that children who attend church weekly or more often and who are raised in intact families rank in the highest PIAT math percentiles.
The strongest effects appear to proceed from family structure: children raised in intact married families average in the 54th percentile, while children raised in cohabiting stepfamilies or always-single parent families score the worst, averaging in the 27th percentile.
According to a new Pew Research study, released less than a month ago, barely half (51%) of Americans are married, compared to 72% in 1960. However, federal surveys show that the birth rate today is 4,317,000—greater than the birthrate in 1961, at 4,268,000.
What these numbers tell us is that there are more children born to fewer married couples. This means that many children today are missing out on the host of benefits that come from being raised by two married parents. Notably, children raised in married parent families do better in many educational outcomes.
From “Marriage, Family Structure, and Children’s Educational Attainment,” research shows that in terms of raw achievement, elementary school children from intact biological families earn higher reading and math test scoresthan children in cohabiting and divorced single and always-single parent families. However, adolescents from non-intact families have lower scores than their counterparts in intact married families on math, science, history, and reading tests.
When it comes to school behavior, adolescents in single-parent families, married stepfamilies, or cohabiting stepfamilies are more likelythan adolescents in intact married families to have ever been suspended or expelled from school, to have participated in delinquent activities, and to have problems getting along with teachers, doing homework, and paying attention in school.
Parents have a tremendous impact on their child’s education, as well. Adolescents in intact biological families reported that their parents participated more in school, that they discussed school more with their parents, and that they knew more of their friends’ parents than those in single-parent families and stepfamilies. Kids from married parent families also have greater education expectations: 31.3 percent of sons and 26.7 percent of daughters from intact biological families plan to get a college degree, but 42.4 percent of sons and 35.9 percent of daughters in single-parent families do not plan to get a college degree.
See our full report in order to see the benefits of marriage and religion for students’ raw achievement, test scores, school behavior, parental impact, religious practice, and family income.
The best thing for your child’s education just may be your marriage.
Not only is it failing them, but it’s a “socially compelled sexual incarceration” that can lead to a life of anger and contempt, or so says Eric Anderson, an American sociologist at England’s University of Winchester and author of the provocative new book, The Monogamy Gap: Men, Love, and the Reality of Cheating (Oxford University Press, $49.99).
Cheating, however, serves men pretty well. An undiscovered affair allows them to keep their relationship and emotional intimacy, and even if they’re busted it’s a lot easier than admitting that they wanted to screw someone else in the first place, he writes.
In his study of 120 undergraduate men, 78 percent of those who had a partner cheated, “even though they said that they loved and intended to stay with their partner.” Contrary to what we may think, most men aren’t cheating because they don’t love their partner, he says; they cheat because they just want to have sex with others. And society shouldn’t pooh-pooh that.
Monogamy’s stronghold on our beliefs—what he calls monogamism—brings ostracism and judgment to anyone who questions or strays from its boundaries. That doesn’t make sense to Anderson, who wonders why we stigmatize someone who has a fling more than couples who divorce—throwing away a marriage rich in history and love, upsetting their kids’ lives—over something like sex.
Monogamy isn’t the only “proper” way to be in a relationship, and he says it’s time that society finds “multiple forms of acceptable sexual relationship types—including sexually open relationships—that coexist without hierarchy or hegemony.” It’s especially important for today’s young men, for whom monogamous sex seems more boring than in generations past because of easy premarital sex and pornography.
I’m dubious, to say the least, about Anderson’s research. His study consisted of interviews with 120 undergraduate males, a rather bizarre sample for a study of monogamy and commitment. The article itself is too long to address point by point, so I’ll say just two things:
1. Anderson writes, “Humans are largely lousy at controlling our bodies’ desires. We say we don’t want to eat that Snickers bar, but we also really do want to eat it. We eat it, we feel guilty about it, and afterwards we promise ourselves not to eat one again; but we nonetheless do.” His analogy is positively ludicrous. Marriage is not a diet. Marriage is a covenant. And whereas the occasional candy bar will not destroy the human body, the violation of the necessary marital commitment to fidelity will absolutely destroy a marriage. Furthermore, the difficulty that self-denial poses is no reason to completely eschew the discipline of fidelity. And though Anderson rationalizes that the sex is “just sex” and not an emotional relationship, the reality is that the divorce of sexual relationship from emotion and intimacy is deadening, when it is not impossible.
2. “Premarital sex” is, as the author says, “easy” to get. Pornography damages not only individuals’ perceptions of monogamous, married sexual relationships, it damages actual people. (For more on the harms of pornography, see the MARRI synthesis paper “The Effects of Pornography on Individuals, Marriage, Family, and Community”). The fact remains, though, that married persons enjoy the most sexual fulfillment. Don’t believe me? Check the following resources: Robert T. Michael, et al., Sex in America: A Definitive Survey (Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1994), 124-129; Edward O. Laumann, et al., The Social Organization of Sexuality: Sexual Practices in the United States (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994), 364, table 10.5; Andrew Greeley, Faithful Attraction: Discovering Intimacy, Love and Fidelity in American Marriage (New York: Tom Doherty Association, 1991), see chapter 6 (as cited in Glenn T. Stanton, “Why Marriage Matters”).
What do you think? Do men need to cheat? Is monogamy an unrealistic and unnatural demand to apply to a partner?
Physorg recently reported on an article by Cornell University professor Sharon Sassler and Cornell doctoral student Dela Kusi-Appouh entitled “The Specter of Divorce: Views from Working and Middle-Class Cohabitors.”
Physorg reported that over two thirds of cohabiting couples surveyed “admitted to concerns about dealing with the social, legal, emotional and economic consequences of a possible divorce.” Middle-class respondents were generally more hopeful about marriage than lower-class respondents and considered cohabitation a logical step before marrying. Working-class cohabiting couples were particularly likely to think of legal marriage as “just a piece of paper” and were disproportionately likely to confess “fears about being stuck in marriage with no way out” once they had come to rely on the income generated by their partner [emphasis added].
Physorg reported that “[t]he authors hope that their findings could help premarital counselors to better tailor their lessons to assuage widespread fears of divorce.” To read the full Physorg article, click here.
Suzanne Venker, author of “The Flipside of Feminism: What Conservative Women Know—and Men Can’t Say,” posted a response to the Pew Research Center’s report on marriage. She writes that marriage is in decline due to a lack of modeling on the part of the parents of today’s 20- and 30-somethings, and asserts that “[f]or starters, parents have to stop getting divorced for less than dire reasons.”
She also writes that women have been deceived by the feminist movement. “Feminists assured women their efforts would result in more satisfying marriages, but that has not happened. Rather, women’s search for faux equality has damaged marriage considerably (some might say irrevocably, but I’m an optimist) by eradicating the complementary nature of marriage — in which men and women work together, as equals, toward the same goal but with an appreciation for the unique qualities each gender brings to the table.”