family

family

No One Can Have It All: Reevaluating career priorities for the health of the family

family, fathers, MARRI, marriage, mothers No comments

Betsy Huff, Intern
The recent cover story of Atlantic Monthly “Why Women Still Can’t Have it All”by  Anne-Marie Slaughter, a tenured professor at Princeton who also spent two years as director of Policy Planning  at the State Department, is only the latest fuel to the fiery discussion concerning women juggling the demands of a high-powered career and family. With this article comes praise and criticism from all sides.  Some reproach the author’s laments because of her highly privileged background, which allowed her the “luxury” of stepping down from a fast-paced political career in D.C. to a distinguished academic career at Princeton. If only most women were so fortunate.  As Rick Newman comments, “Unrealistic expectations, in fact, are often the core problem that working Moms face when trying to juggle the demands of office and home. Some working Moms have no choice but to try to do everything, because there’s no husband or not enough money. But others do it because they choose to.” 
Newman is certainly right about the debate being about unrealistic expectations, but not just of women. Both men and women need to reevaluate their priorities when it comes to balancing career ambitions with the health and needs of a family.  A family in which either parent is basically absent from a child’s life due to an 80 + hour work week is detrimental to a child’s well-being. Absent fathers are just as damaging as absent mothers. In the Marriage and Religion Research Institute’s publication “162 Reasons to Marry,” an abundance of social science research is referenced supporting the idea that an intact family is best for a child’s social, mental, physical, and educational well-being. 
No one can have it all, no matter who we are, or what our family looks like. It’s time the debate is shifted from mom and dad fighting over who gets to work and who has to stay home, to what is most beneficial to children and in turn beneficial to society as a whole.   Suzanne Venker hits the nail on the head when it comes to advocating for the health of the family in a commentary on her website, centering the debate back to where it belongs- the well-being of the children. She says, “The children — and whether or not we value them. Our actions, our choices, are the only way to prove what we value. The rest is just talk…That’s why two parents are so critical for childrearing. This is a perennial that we as a nation cannot seem to face…Children’s needs conflict with adult desires. Period…The ability to sacrifice one’s own desires for the needs of others is crucial to building healthy relationships. There are no shortcuts.”
Venker concludes and I agree, “Until Americans start reevaluating their priorities, we will never be successful in raising strong families.”

Unmarried Baby Boomers Face A Grim Future

divorce, family, marriage, social institutions 1 comment
MARRI Interns
A recent study on married and unmarried individuals of the baby boom generation paints a dark picture. Researchers at Bowling Green University found that “one in three baby boomers is unmarried.” The overwhelming majority were either divorced or never-married; only 10% were widowed. This is a steep increase of more than 50% since 1980, especially in light of the fact that less than 13% of Americans age 46-64 were unmarried in 1970. In addition to in the number of unmarried adults of the baby boom generation, the marital statuses of these individuals have also shifted over time. “In 1980, among unmarried adults aged 45-63, 45% of them were divorced, 33% were widowed, and 22% were never-married.” According to the most recent figures in 2009, “58% of unmarried boomers were divorced, 32% were never-married, and just 10% were widowed.”
 
As made evident in this study by Bowling Green University, the implications and effects of these figures are significant and dire. Unmarried baby boomers face greater economic, health, and social vulnerabilities compared to married individuals. The study found that unmarrieds were almost five times more likely to live in poverty than married individuals. “Nearly one in five unmarried boomers was poor” compared with just one in twenty of their married counterparts. The research conducted by Bowling Green University confirms much of the research we have already done on the effects of marital status on family outcome, especially on the effects upon children.
 
While the conclusions of this study are in fact significant, it should come as no surprise that unmarried middle age Americans have fewer resources to draw from than do married individuals. They do not have a spouse to offer support, and are less likely to have children to take care of them in their old age. Families are the fundamental foundation of any society; the stronger the couple the stronger the family. If a society is comprised of weak families, society falters. Even for the pragmatic this study has significant implications for our own nation in terms of social security, how we provide health care, and all other social services.

Cohabitation

cohabitation, family, marriage, religion No comments
MARRI Interns
It is vexing professional conduct for a researcher to rigorously investigate the nuances of a social phenomenon and then disregard those well-established facts when offering a prescription.  Yet it was exactly that inexplicable approach to the social sciences that was on full display on the New York Times editorial page last weekend.  In an op-ed entitled “The Downside of Cohabiting Before Marriage,” clinical psychologist Meg Jay simultaneously displays both a firm knowledge of the effects of cohabiting and an inability to proscribe it. 
The title of the op-ed is itself revelatory of the fact that it is the downside of cohabitation that is newsworthy, since the popular presumption is that cohabitation is either neutral or desirable, but the research explodes these unreflective and unexamined presuppositions.  That research demonstrates that cohabitation is almost unexceptionally harmful for successful, stable marriages and families, as Ms. Jay argues in her op-ed. 
Yet the primary and glaring flaw of this article is its vacillation at the time of offering a prescription to this entrenched problem.  This vacillation is both wanton and willful; the author, preferring defeatist resignation to bold, consistent remedy, demurs that “cohabitation is here to stay.”  That a Slate.com columnist can flippantly generalize that “everyone lives together now before getting married” is understandable, but that a professional relational advisor can express such ideas is borderline insulting to those clients of hers that she has relegated to such irresponsibility.  (Parenthetically, it must be noted that the Slate article is patently wrong when it argues that “the cohabitation effect” which holds that cohabiting couples are less satisfied with marriages has disappeared; research as recent as the 2000s suggests that it still holds true.)  On the contrary, rates of cohabitation correlate with specific behavioral practices; for example, MARRI research shows that only 27.1% of women from intact marriages who worship weekly cohabit before marriage. 
Refusal of commitment is the essence of cohabitation; it is therefore incomprehensible to suggest that cohabitation be somehow reinterpreted to be a “pre-marriage” arrangement.  A far superior prescription that is consistent with the evidence is that clinicians and counselors advise their clients to forego cohabitation and make the real commitment of getting married.

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

Self and the Single Parent: On Jessica Olien, Part II

child well-being, culture, family, Jessica Olien, marriage, religion, single parents No comments
By Julia Polese, Intern
 
The notion of singleness has been a hot topic lately. Articles discussing single motherhood, living alone, and remaining unmarried by choice reflect trending individualism in American culture. Jessica Olien’s article “I Want to Be My Kid’s Only Parent” sums up the surging solipsism well: “I can’t help but think that having a partner there with an equal stake in the matter would complicate the process.” Her dispassionate ode to single parenthood echoes Kate Bolick’s sentiments in “All the Single Ladies” from The Atlanticearlier this year, in which she discussed “the elevation of independence over coupling.” The individualism Alexis de Tocqueville prophesied as one of the most undesirable discontents of democracy in America is becoming manifest in not only in our local communities, but also in our families.
 
Andrew Delbanco, professor of American Studies at Columbia University, gave a series of lectures in 1998 entitled The Real American Dream: A Meditation on Hope. In these lectures, he discussed the American people’s diminution of hope: from worship of their God, to loyalty to a notion of the sacred nation-state, and, in the last fifty years, “to the vanishing point of self alone.” Despite this shrinking world, Delbanco claims contemporary culture is still haunted by an “unslacked craving for transcendence.” Even in the glorification of singleness and the “self alone,” the authors of these articles still betray a longing for devotion to something outside themselves. Olien ends her article by exalting her hypothetical progeny, saying she “could have men on the periphery, but [she] would place [her] child securely in the center.” Bolick extols the virtue of the community at Begijnhof, an apartment complex only for single women in the Netherlands. Both are enamored with their self-sufficiency, but betray a desire to devote themselves to something other.
 
MARRI’s 162 Reasons to Marry outlines some of the ways marriage can aid in answering this longing. Married women experience less psychological stress and enjoy more social support than their single or cohabiting peers, and their children report higher quality of life. These aspects of the intact married family present a way to ease the democratic citizen’s restlessness, connecting her to something transcendent and larger than herself when rightly ordered in relation to God and country. With this in mind, the home again becomes a “haven in a heartless world” and not a prison that only works to constrain one’s self-defined existence.

The Benefits of Two-Parent Families

divorce, family, Jessica Olien, MARRI, marriage, poverty, single parents, United Kingdom No comments
By MARRI Interns
In a recent Slate.com article, “I Want To Be My Kid’s Only Parent,” Jessica Olien presents the case that single motherhood allows her to raise her child without interference from a spouse. “I crave the closeness of single motherhood—without the complications a husband can bring,” she says. While there is no problem craving closeness with one’s child, the desire to be a single parent means missing out on the vast benefits for children raised in married, two-parent homes. The Marriage and Religion Research Institute’s publication Mapping America has documented research from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (1997) on the ways that family structure affects children. Research has shown that children raised with two biological parent homes are more emotionally stable, and are also significantly less likely to run away, experience poverty, and other emotional stresses. Children raised in two parent biological parent homes are more likely and more able to enjoy the benefits of the physical presence of two loving parents.
 
Studies done in the United Kingdom have shown that children raised in lone parent homes, whether divorced or separated, are more likely than children raised in married families to experience emotional disorders, 7.6% of children as opposed to 3.5% (from MARRI’s research synthesis paper “Effects of Divorce”).
 
Single-parenthood also brings with it economic consequences for the child. Children who live in single-parent homes often live in poverty.  A 2000 study of children in poverty done in found that 67% of children in never-married-parent homes lived in poverty, 41% of those living with a separated parent, and 31% of those living with a divorced parent also live in poverty as opposed to only 12% of children who live in first marriage parents (MARRI website). According to a MARRI presentation, “Children’s right to the marriage of parents,” there are over 3.93 million children living in poverty. If those same parents were married, there would only be 0.75 million children living in poverty, with 3.17 million leaving poverty. Clearly, this is not only a huge strangle on the economy, but it is also leaving children unable to enjoy the benefits of living in a loving a ndcomfortable environment.


American Demography: Meet the Parents

cohabitation, education, family, human capital, MARRI, marriage, poverty 2 comments
By MARRI Interns
Over the weekend, the New York Times published a front page article by Jason Deparle and Sabrina Tavernise reporting on new data by Child Trends (“For Women Under 30, Most Births Occur Outside Marriage,” Feb. 18, 2012). But the objective data that the unassuming title portends quickly gives way to a remarkable synthesis of logical flaws, selective data interpretation, and glaring oversights which all culminate in an irredeemably confused analysis of contemporary American demography.

The raw data is not the cause of these accusations. The burgeoning number of children born outside of marriage is beyond dispute and is, as Deparle and Tavernise rightly note, a trend that is observable through the past five decades. Only slightly less controversial is the assertion that this trend has been decisively harmful to the development of the children involved. The article is thus correct in noting, “Researchers have consistently found that children born outside marriage face elevated risks of falling into poverty, failing in school or suffering emotional and behavioral problems.” The article also includes the admission by Susan Brown, a sociologist from Bowling Green State University, that “children born to married couples, on average, ‘experience better education, social, cognitive, and behavioral outcomes.’” It is simply no longer a point of debate that children raised in monogamous, married, intact families perform incomparably better than do children raised in other family structures.

The article is lacking not because of flaws in the data but because Deparle and Tavernise’s interpretation of that data is erroneous and relatively dismissive. It is already established that these trends are pernicious toward children and society as a whole. Why then this facile intimation that such trends are somehow of nominal significance, that the increase of children born to unwed parents does not bode poorly for the future, and that marriage is somehow, in the words of University of Pennsylvania sociologist Frank Furstenberg, “a luxury good,” in the face of volumes of sociological evidence to the contrary?

The confusion inherent in the article is made manifest in the implicit insinuation that such trends are simply to be accepted passively as an irremediable feature of American demography, and that the circumstances which occasioned their advent were regrettably unavoidable. Deparle and Tavernise’s interpretation of the data is a reductionist one that explains the decline in marriage as attributable almost entirely to economics and education. While DeParle and Tavernise rightly assert that “men are worth less than they used to be,” they provide no explanation for that development.  But the research presented in MARRI’s 162 Reasons to Marry shows definitively that men are worth less because they fail to marry, and that marriage correlates with significant increases in working hours, productivity, and wages for men. Furthermore, married, intact families save more, have higher average net worth, enjoy more rapid net worth growth, and are less likely to be impoverished than any other family structures. None of these benefits apply to cohabiting couples, the very structure identified by Deparle and Tavernise as the source of most of the new nonmarital births. The research supporting these conclusions is copious and consistently strengthened by newer studies. By contrast, the analysis provided in the NYTarticle has the causal link exactly backwards, and in ironic fashion, the cohabiting couples or single parents interviewed for the anecdotal segments of the article are also, by their intentional decision not to marry, unintentionally ensuring the propagation to their children of the very circumstances they attribute to be the cause of their familial instability, and thereby putting their children at a disadvantage, not shielding them from the potential devastation of a fractured marriage.

Nor are the beneficial aspects of involvement by both parents in a stable marriage for the children merely financial. MARRI’s 2011 Index of Belonging and Rejection demonstrates that children from intact, stable families have higher high school graduation rates and standardized tests scores and a lower incidence of teenage out-of-wedlock births, among other indicators. The data resound to indicate that mothers—even financially stable mothers—cannot so quickly dispense with the fathers of their children, nor can women be removed from a society without grave repercussions, as previous entries in this blog have noted. An indelible interconnectedness binds private behavior and public well-being together, and this ever-increasing volume of studies demonstrates that the sexes are not as independent and isolated as might be thought. It would seem that fathers and mothers are not mutually expendable baggage to be jettisoned capriciously for the sake of convenience, but are rather integral components of successful families and society as a whole.

To Rebuild Society, We Should Rethink our Foundation

crime, culture, family, news, Pat Fagan, social institutions, youth 1 comment
By Julia Polese, Intern
On February 13th, New York Times columnist David Brooks examined the current trends in sociological study that have displaced economic and cultural determinism as the primary explanation for the weakening of the American social fabric. He explains that regardless of the origin of social disorganization – job loss, government growth, or abandonment of traditional norms – it continues through the generations. Disruption causes more disruption and weakening social fabric within certain communities can be tied not primarily to sweeping moral decay or the recession, but to sociological factors on as small a scale as a child’s attachment to his parents. “It’s not enough just to have economic growth policies,” he writes. “The country also needs to rebuild orderly communities.”
 
This trend points to a third route between the extremes of building the Great Society and subsidizing atomization. Sociological studies in the past several decades regarding crime and reasons for delinquent behavior have largely drawn from Social Control Theory, outlined by Travis Hirschi in 1969. In his seminal work, Causes of Delinquency, Hirschi broke with the preceding scholarly consensus by claiming that both delinquents and those who have not committed crimes share the same disposition to delinquency, but what differentiates them are their social bonds and relation to conventional society that constrain their baser passions. The sociologist named attachment, commitment, involvement, and belief as four essential aspects of a person’s development. Deficiency in one or more of these values can weaken one’s social bonds and, as many subsequent studies drawing from Hirschi’s theory have shown, lead to delinquent behavior. The key to social disruption is breakdown in relationships.
Brooks writes that in order to “rebuild orderly communities,” orderly people need to be cultivated. While the columnist proposes sometimes using the government to build “organizations and structures that induce people to behave responsibly,” these structures do not have to be created by tax codes and mandates to provide individual incentives to behave. Rather, the family structure can provide such an incubator for responsible citizenship. As the fundamental “orderly community” and basis of civil society, the family shapes a child’s belief in the norms around him, his attachment to others, and involvement in and commitment to the community.
 
“Social repair requires sociological thinking,” says Brooks, and the sociological data consistently has revealed the significant role the intact family can have in reweaving the disintegrating social fabric. However, sociological thinking must be done within the correct paradigm. Patrick Fagan, director of the Marriage and Religion Research Institute, states that “Sociology done well cannot but reflect the way God made man.” A correct anthropology in light of our state as fallen creatures must inform attempts at “social repair.” Sociology is reflective, but cannot be fundamentally reparative. Repair begins with grace from outside us that constrains our passions and reorders our will to what is good. The family is one means of such grace, and the data cannot help but reflect the goodness of this first structure.

Twenty-Something Ladies: “It’s Okay” to Think Family!

child well-being, family, feminism, marriage, mothers, Phyllis Schlafly, women's health No comments
By MaryAnn McCabe, Intern
Planning for marriage and motherhood is not a societal norm for twenty-something ladies, nor is fatherhood in the immediate plans of most men. But this generation of young women needs to hear that it is more than okay to think about not only career, but their family. Our culture today attacks traditional femininity, but research supports support the benefits of marriage and motherhood, so why not consider that option while you are career planning? According to studies published here at the Marriage and Religion Research Institute, there are many reasons to be married. Married couples find their sexual relationship more satisfying than cohabiters do. Married women are healthier than never-married, divorced, and separated women. Children in intact married families enjoy more emotional and behavioral well-being than children in cohabiting or single-mother families. Staying married results in men and women looking younger. Those raised in an intact family are likely to consider themselves “very” happy” than those raised in non-intact families. The positive outcomes from choosing marriage and motherhood are astounding.
Hopefully, most young adults are thinking about their future. In order to have a stable and secure home, one must build a solid foundation. Tenacious and driven women may have thought of graduate school, law school, medical school, and/or possibly owning a business. As you start to lay the foundation you may start to think, “By the time I am done with law school I will be twenty-six.” Then a second thought may possibly pop up: “It will take a good couple of years of late nights toiling at a law firm as an entry-level associate in order to become a mid-level or higher associate. Making partner can take up to nine years. I’ll be roughly thirty-five before I can even consider a spouse or child.”
Another consideration a woman must make is the staggering amount of debt she will possess. A law degree or a medical degree costs as much a house. In essence, it is a mortgage before having an actual mortgage. According to the National Student Loan Surveys, “fields of study with the highest levels of borrowing include law students, who are 4% of the NASLS population, but 17% of the borrowers with debt greater than $30,000; medical students are 15% of the survey, but 26% percent of those with debt over $30,000.  A total of 74% of borrowers with debt above $30,000 went to graduate/professional school.” Those with professional education feel most burdened, and women perceived their debt to be a bigger problem than men do. More than 80% of bankruptcy attorneys surveyed by the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys reported a “major” jump in student loan borrowers seeking help. These are the issues that can cause women to put off marriage. Education is by no means a bad thing, but it’s important to note its cost, both in dollars and in time.
In The Flipside of Feminism, Phyllis Schlafly and Suzanne Venker share their stories, telling young women today that “it’s ok” to factor family into future plans — you should! Schlafly and Venker shed some light onto the fact that it is hard to juggle it all, but we have one life to live, so how do you want to live it?