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.
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?
By Anna Dorminey, Staff New MARRI Original Research is out! “Marriage, Contraception & The Future of Western Peoples” shows that the peoples of the West are depleting because of their adoption of extra-marital sexual norms and simultaneous rejection of fertility. The generations to come will decrease exponentially as a direct effect of declining trends in fertility and declining desires and expectations to have children, both in the generation currently having children, and in future generations. This trend is of one cloth with the West’s shift in economic orientation from family enterprise to individualist labor activity, and its simultaneous movement from religious to secular social values. Remediation lies in re-adopting stable marriage as a societal norm and in rejecting the non-sustainable model of society, which discards religion, traditional sexual norms, and lifelong commitment, and replacing it with a less secular, more traditional, family-oriented life.
Did you miss the release of our Second Annual Index of Family Belonging and Rejection? You can read it hereand watch the webcast of the event here!
An excerpt from the Index’s introduction:
The Index of Family Belonging was 45.8 percent with a corresponding Family Rejection score of 54.2 percent for the United States for the year 2009. The action of parents determines the belonging or rejection score: whether they marry and belong to each other, or they reject one another through divorce or otherwise. Rejection leaves children without married parents committed to one another and to the intact family in which the child was to be brought up.
·Only 45.8% of American children reach the age of 17 with both their biological parents married (since before or around the time of their birth).
·The Index of Family Belonging is highest in the Northeast (49.6%) and lowest in the South (41.8%).
·Minnesota (57%) and Utah (56.5%) have the highest Index of Family Belonging values of all the states; Mississippi (34%) has the lowest. The District of Columbia had an abysmally low Family Belonging Index score of 18.6%.
·Family Belonging is strongest among Asians (65.8%) and weakest among Blacks (16.7%).
·Once differences across states in Family Belonging, adult educational attainment, foreign-born residents, and population density are taken into account, differences in state racial and ethnic composition are no longer significant in accounting for variations in child well-being outcomes (the exception being that the proportion of Hispanics in a state is very significant in determining the number of births to unmarried teenagers).
·While the effects of government spending on high school graduation rates are curvilinear and offer diminishing returns, family belonging is positively and significantly associated with high school graduation rates.
·Family belonging and child poverty are significantly, inversely related: States with high Index values have relatively low child poverty rates, and vice versa.
·There is a significant, inverse relationship between family belonging and the incidence of births to unmarried teenagers.
Science Daily reported that a 19-year study published recently in the Journal of Marriage and Family found that becoming a father lessens a man’s likelihood to consume alcohol or tobacco or to commit crimes, apart from the process of maturing with age.
The authors found that men who became fathers well into their 20s or 30s were more likely to kick their habits than men who became fathers in their teens or early 20s.
One of the authors, assistant professor of psychology at Oregon State University David Kerr, said they drew encouraging information from their research: “This research suggests that fatherhood can be a transformative experience, even for men engaging in high risk behavior…This presents a unique window of opportunity for intervention, because new fathers might be especially willing and ready to hear a more positive message and make behavioral changes.”
President Obama has issued an order proclaiming November 2011 as National Adoption Month in which he mentioned LGBT families: “Adoptive families come in all forms,” the order says. “With so many children waiting for loving homes, it is important to ensure that all qualified caregivers are given the opportunity to serve as adoptive parents, regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, or marital status.”
National Adoption Month is something we at MARRI celebrate with the rest of the country. We believe that the choice to raise a child not biologically one’s own is a heroic decision, and we honor adoptive parents, and biological mothers and fathers who give their children for adoption, in their efforts to give children a second chance. See our research synthesis paper, Adoption Works Well, for a review of the literature on the benefits of adoption for children, biological parents, and adoptive parents alike.
In a Bloomberg editorial published Sunday regarding No Child Left Behind, the editorial board criticized Congress, the Department of Education, and the Obama Administration for failing to bring NCLB’s requirements up to date (or failing to provide direction on how to do so). The President has issued waivers to states discharging them from NCLB’s requirement that they meet a 100 percent reading and math proficiency standard; the DOE explains that states will, instead, make their own standards.
The writers of the editorial go on to write about the need for a universal benchmark and effective accountability measures and about the benefit of incentives, a discussion of whose merits all belong in another blog. The point is that all of these measures and plans address student academic achievement from far too shallow an angle. The education establishment is trying to make sure students pass while disregarding the fact that their families are failing.
All of the best incentives and goals in the world can only work so effectively if American students are not enjoying the stability and care at home that they deserve. As we illustrate in one of our most recent productions, Marriage, Family Structure, and Children’s Educational Attainment, the intact family provides students with the environment they need to achieve. Students from intact families achieve more in terms of purely academic measures and in terms of school participation and behavior.
Our latest Mapping America production, Mapping America 108: CAT-ASVAB Math/VerbalPercentile Scores, underscores the importance of family structure. The ASVAB,or Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, is an examination that determines whether or not an individual is qualified to enlist in the U.S. armed forces or to serve it in various capacities. Our research shows that those from intact, married families earn higher scores than those in all other family structures. Additionally, those who attend church at least weekly do better than those who attend at least monthly, less than monthly, or never. Those who both come from an intact family and attend church at least weekly do the best.
The Bloomberg article closes with a list of questions: “Why do test results often vary widely within individual schools? Why do many minority students fare poorly even at high-achieving suburban schools?” The answers lie at home. (For more on the strength of the family among minorities, see the 2010 U.S. Index of Belonging and Rejection.) If the family fails, a student’s chances of passing drop.
Last week, the College Board reported that 57 percent of the college-bound class of 2011 did not meet the SAT’s College and Career Readiness Benchmark. The low proportion of students meeting this threshold, which is designed to indicate “the level of academic preparedness associated with a high likelihood of college success and completion,” comes as no surprise to those who understand where academic capacity really grows: the intact family.
When comparing the academic performance of children reared in intact families to those in non-intact families, it becomes inescapably clear that those raised in intact families do better. Our latest MARRI project, “Marriage, Family Structure, and Children’s Educational Attainment,” demonstrates this on the basis of differences in both raw student achievement (e.g. test scores, GPA) and in student behavior (e.g. attendance, engagement, suspension from school).
“Marriage, Family Structure, and Children’s Educational Attainment” also shows that different family structures generate different environments at home. For example, parents in intact families tend to have higher expectations for their children and to be more involved in their children’s education. They also tend to worship more and to have higher incomes, both of which facilitate strong academic outcomes.
Those who analyze the SATand the performance of students who take it will likely produce a variety of solutions to improve academic achievement in the U.S.These solutions may have merit, but the best way to ensure student success is to strengthen the family.
There are many factors that influence an individual’s views on life and family, particularly the sense of duty that men have when it comes to children. One study has found that men who father a child out of wedlock have varying responses to that child, based on their own family of origin. If the father grew up in a family that was on welfare, he is less likely to marry the baby’s mother.1 However, if he came from a family that did not need to receive welfare, he is more likely to marry her. Additionally, marriage makes a difference in deciding whether or not to keep a child, and presumably affects the amount of responsibility men are willing to accept. Married couples are much less likely to seek an abortion compared to other relationships. A Guttmacher survey found that cohabiting women accounted for 20.2% of women having an abortion (but make up only 5.8 of women of reproductive age). In contrast, married women only accounted for 18.4% of all induced abortions (but make up 49.9% of reproductive aged women).2
Region is also a predictor of a man’s response to life. The Intergenerational Panel Study of Parents and Children found that 18-year-olds who said that religion was important in their lives were less supportive of abortion, as well as premarital sex, than their peers who said religion was less important to them.3
MARRI’s series “Mapping America” looks at the effects of marriage and religion on various sociological outcomes, including the likelihood of fathers encouraging an abortion. __________________ 1 Madeline Zavodny, “Do Men’s Characteristics Affect Whether a Nonmarital Pregnancy Results in Marriage?” Journal of Marriage and the Family 61 (August 1999): 764-773. 2 S.K. Henshaw and K Kost, “Abortion Patients in 1994-1995: Characteristics and Contraceptive Use,” Family Planning Perspectives 28 (1996): 140. 3 L.D. Pearce and A. Thornton, “Religious Identity and Family Ideologies in the Transition to Adulthood,” Journal of Marriage and Family 69 (2007): 1227-1243.
We all like to believe that, as unique individuals, we’re masters of our own destiny and originals in our own right. We may still cling to this privilege in the U.S., but Austrians have officially lost the dispensation, at least with regard to their likelihood to marry and bear children.
Caroline Berghammer of the Vienna Institute of Demography, through analysis of the 2008-2009 Austrian Generations and Gender Survey, charted family life paths and individual likelihood of choosing them, based on personal religiosity, family size growing up, and other factors. (Because Austria’s religious population is mostly Catholic, Berghammer only includes Catholics in her “religious” category.)
This chart lays out the most common “family life paths” in Austria, among the men and women included in the study who were between the ages of 40 and 45. The numbers represent how many children a person has, and the colors indicate a person’s relationship status.
Relaxing a little the age rigidity of these life-paths, she found that the largest proportion of the Austrian population (19.1%) chooses never to have children and to live in one cohabiting relationship after another (she calls this “sequential cohabitation”). The smallest proportion (6%) chooses traditional parenthood—direct marriage, no cohabitation—with three or more children.
Berghammer found that those who attend Mass monthly or weekly are more likely to marry directly, without cohabiting, and to have at least two children. She also found that a person’s odds of cohabiting sequentially (versus his likelihood to follow the most common life path—cohabiting, eventually marrying and having two kids along the way) are halved if they attend religious services.
Those who don’t claim any religion are 87% more likely than Roman Catholics to have children outside of marriage. Additionally, for every sibling a person has, he or she is 29% more likely to choose traditional parenthood and to have three or more children rather than the aforementioned “most common life path.”
Notably, people who consider themselves religious but don’t regularly attend church don’t seem to differ much from those who don’t consider themselves religious.
Figures and chart: Caroline Berghammer, “Family life trajectories and religiosity in Austria,” August 2010 draft version- later published in the European Sociological Review (2010).