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Chastity, Monogamy, and Divorce

chastity, divorce, intact family, Jay Teachman, John Boyd, MARRI, monogamy, NSFG, polyamory, virginity No comments

Pat Fagan, Ph.D.
Director, MARRI

Christianity gave the world a social order that was based on monogamy, the fruit of Christ’s teachings on marriage, divorce, adultery and fornication.   He raised the bar higher than any prophet or moralist ever had.  It was a tough standard and even his closest followers balked when they realized the implications:  “In that case it is better that a man not marry.” (Mt. 19:10).

But Christ knew what was possible to those who embraced His way, and gradually, as Christianity spread and as Western Civilization was formed stable monogamous marriage became more and more the norm.  The different Christian nations and cultures had different ways of protecting the chastity of their youth, especially that of their young women: think of Spanish chaperoning.   Virginity until marriage and monogamous, stable marriage definitely became very common, and the rare event was the total breakdown of a marriage.  America today is very different.  Fifty four percent of our seventeen year olds have parent who have split.  We have become a culture of rejection between the two sexes.

The chart above gives more than a hint of why our present sexual culture is linked to the break-up of first  marriages:  the number of sexual partners that a spouse has had prior to marriage, and — with expectations of controversy for this hypothesis — especially the number of sexual partners the new wife has had.   
While the stability of the first marriages of both men and women seems linked to their sexual histories, and wives who are non-virgins are more likely than their husbands to divorce, relative to their sexual history.  The rates of stability for virginal men and women are quite similar, but the correlational difference between the husband being his wife’s second sexual partner has more impact on the stability of their marriage than does the analogous for him.  And if he is her third sexual partner the impact increases, approaching a 50 percent breakdown. 
The initial correlation for men is less dramatic, but is steadily negative and for both men and women whose first husband is their fifth sexual partner the probability of marital breakdown is similar and disastrous: one in two.    
This data is from a recent MARRI analysis of the NSFG 2006-2010 data, yet to be published on-line.  Though it is only correlational its fits with other more rigorous analyses of similar, earlier data from the same survey, for instance that by Jay Teachman.    
The stability of marriage is strongly dependent on life-time monogamy, and seems weighted more to the monogamy of women.  
Such seems to me the case the data makes.   It is uncomfortable data for modern young men and women but, to quote John Boyd:  “The most important data is the data that does not fit.”  This interpretation needs to be challenged and the best way to do that is to see if rigorous analysis (regressions for a start) comes to the same conclusion.  In the answer lies the strength of the next generation. 

Divorce and Children

child well-being, children, Christianity, divorce, intact family, MARRI, marriage No comments

Pat Fagan, Ph.D.
Director, Marriage and Religion Research Institute

Here is a question for the two authors of the Scientific American’s recent article on the not-so-bad effects of divorce.

Why is it that in all measures of outcomes at the national level children of divorce as a group do significantly worse than children of intact married families?  If divorce has so little effect why do these big effects constantly appear, in virtually every measure measured?  Even remarriage does not wipe out most of them, and even intensifies some of them … at the group level.  
 
On every outcome measured children of divorce as a group do worse, significantly worse.   That is a generalization but one that holds.  For a fairly recent overview and synthesis of the findings see The Effects of Divorce on Children.

Not all children suffer all the possible bad effects and different children suffer to different degrees, even within the same family.  This provides some consolation to parents who divorce, but little to those who did not want divorce yet had to endure it.

As a former therapist who helped some awful marriages turn around I know how helpless the spouse is who wants to make the marriage work while the other spouse just wants out.   When both, even in awful and abusive marriages, want to make it work, such marriages can be made whole again.  But when one spouse in a relatively decent marriage wants out there is nothing that can be done.  Spouse and therapist are helpless (though there are things a good therapist can try with the willing spouse to get the other to change her mind — more women want out than do men— but such is a long shot and both know it).  

None of the literature reviewed talked about the sexual difficulties of children of divorce: out of wedlock births (but many protest that is OK too),  early sexual involvement (but other protest that is OK too),  cohabitation before marriage (but many protest that is OK too), and their own much higher rates of divorce after they marry (but that brings us back full circle).

The article seems more like a justification and rationalization of the radical individualism involved in the breakup of a marriage. More than half of American parents split whether in divorce, after cohabitation or by not coming together at all.  By age 17 fifty four percent of American children have parents who have rejected each other.  This intimate family experience of the deepest of rejections has lasting effects, some overt and easily measured by sociologists, others much more subtle but happiness-robbing and visible only in therapy or experienced only by spouses of children of divorce.

Western Civilization was built on stable marriage, a phenomenon Christianity gave the West and with it all the treasures and strengths of stable family life.  Not all Christians lived Christ’s way but many did and they shaped law, society, expectations in myriad ways to give societies that stability with all its benefits.   But modern man, including most modern Americans, even American Christians, find Christianity too hard and are leaving it or the harder parts behind. They are free to choose but they are not free to choose the consequences:  more instability in family, more chaos in society, and less developed human beings overall.
 
Christians have to learn to live with these burdens that others place on society as a whole and thus on them as well.  Early Christians lived in societies rife with these burdens.

We are going into a new phase in history that will not be as happy, nor as easy as it was half a century ago.   Welcome to suffering,  and to the self-justification of those who don’t want to make their marriages work when they get “bad”.  The only way to turn this around is for Christians to live marriage and family life as they are called to live it.  Eventually others will say again “See how they love one another”.  Then they will want back in.  Freedom works both ways: leaving and coming back.

Foundations of Society

economics, intact family, MARRI, marriage, religion, sexuality 2 comments

By: Pat Fagan, MARRI Senior Fellow
     Avery Pettway, MARRI Intern

It is natural to measure the success of agriculture as an industry by its harvest, but a farmer’s harvest is more of the result of good farming, rather than the source of it. In order to understand the cycle of growth and health upon which a farm’s prosperity relies, we must look first to how the farmer sows and even how he prepares to sow.

Just like the farmer, society must invest in its own future by ‘sowing seed.’  At MARRI we attempt to diligently demonstrate the need for people to take care of their future harvest—the health and even the very existence of the coming generations—by sowing and cultivating good seed in the present time.

When the families in our nation delay marriage and reduce the frequency of childbirth, and when communities and leaders are encouraging such behavior, we fail to lay the proper foundations for a successful harvest and a continuation of a healthy, robust society.

We see this happening in other nations—Greece, Italy, Spain, and Japan come to mind—where the decline of demographic health is linked to lessened fertility and marriage. These countries have seen their average family size shrink and their economies sputter for want of young families … the growers of the next crop, the next generation. As the family goes, so goes the economy. Unfortunately, we see evidence that our own nation is headed the same direction:

But the economy is not the only institution that suffers when the sowing (sexuality) goes wrong.

It is the task of MARRI to show the United States how intrinsically interconnected are our fundamental institutions of government, marketplace, education, and religion with what is the most fundamental institution of all—the family.  We believe (and the data illustrates) that the thriving of the three “person-forming institutions”—the family, church and school—is key if the other two (marketplace and government) are to thrive and hold a sustainable and competitive role in the global arena.

So what is the ‘good seed’ we ought to sow? Philosophers through the ages have dealt with this question, most foundationally Plato and Aristotle.  How are we to rightly prepare for a harvest of health and societal growth?  The focus of this blog from here on will be to present the evidence from the social sciences that cast light on the road to strengths and weaknesses.  In particular we will examine the sexual trends, for that is where it all starts (where people start and are brought into existence).  Are they helping or hurting our families, thereby helping or hurting our basic institutions?

We will explore what has become our basic thesis—as all the data of the social sciences mount over the decades—that the main task of society, of individuals, of families, and of communities is to grow the young, intact, married family that worships God weekly.  If that is done, all the problems of society diminish in size and intensity and all its strengths grow.  It is a thesis that the social science data—but not too many social scientists—seem to uphold.  Therein lies the future excitement of this blog: a good public discourse on the fundamentals, and on the predictions and cautions to which the data point.

An Ode to Grandparents

children, extended family, family, intact family, religion No comments

By Danielle Lee, MARRI Intern

If working with MARRI Research teaches you one thing, it’s that intact married families (pick your state and find out how the belonging index affects social policy outcomes where you live) are the way to go.  Families led by married parentsand that worship together regularly produce children who have better quality relationships, who perform better in school, and who claim to be happier than those raised in other circumstances.
But with studies focused on relationships within the nuclear family, it’s sometimes easy to lose sight of the the generations of parents that have come before.  This isn’t a gap in the research; it’s a logical inference that is many times forgotten or left un-pursued.  Grandparents are simply the expansion pack of the intact family.
Oh, the stories my grandparents would tell (and that I tell now)!  Of how they got through Soviet checkpoints at the North Korean border by getting all the young ones to cry loudly, or of how one of our ancestors was a political exile centuries back.  Mom and Dad have taught me how to function as a responsible citizen and bring a unique contribution to my community, whereas Grandma and Grandpa have taught me how I belong in the grander scheme of history.
So, why does this matter?  Bruce Feiler of the New York Times recently exposited the correlation between a child’s knowledge of family narrative and history and his or her ability to cope with physical, emotional, and mental traumas.  Children with knowledgeable awareness of their family narrative coped better with stresses, including the devastation of 9/11.
It’s so much more than a coping mechanism, though.  The great 20th century intellectuals pursued originality so aggressively that some were ready to divorce words from their accepted meanings (via written entreaties, ironically).  They believed that a rejection of and detachment from all they knew would give them untainted space for true originality. Yet one might posit that those intellectuals (particularly, the French) got it all wrong.  True originality (if it exists) and cultural progress stems from familiarity with history—you have to know where you came from to know where you’re going.
Learning about my great-grandfather’s commitment to Korean independence from Japanese occupation offers dimension and depth to my own life ambitions. It brings perspective as to why I’m inexplicably interested and drawn to public policy issues even when my siblings are not.  Meanwhile, goals that seem untenable, if not absurd, are no longer so implausible when you learn that the childhood home of your grandmother (the one who washes the dishes in the dishwasher because they aren’t clean enough) housed the Korean government at one point.
The generations that have come before are not participants in a distant past that have nothing to do with us.  In fact, they have everything to do with our identity and our trajectory.  In a culture that fixates on youth through babies on Facebook (see “Facebook, Privacy, and the Commoditization of Children” below) or Botox, we can’t keep trying to stop time from passing—or we really won’t get anywhere.  The past is our launching pad.  It grounds us in morality and discipline but also pushes us to do greater things than accomplished before.

Electric Zoo, Family Structure, and Substance Abuse

crime, family, intact family, religion, youth No comments


By MARRI Intern
A week and half before their Labor Day music festival, Electric Zoo posted a notice on their blog encouraging their participant “party animals” to “keep the positive party vibes flowing by looking out for each other.” The post advised against illegal drug use but also outlined common signs of drug abuse and included a map of where to find on-site medical facilities. While many attendees may have followed this recommendation and enjoyed their weekend, a few attendees did not. Electric Zoo was forced to cancelthe third and final day of the event due to two tragic overdoses and a number of hospitalized attendees on the first two days.
Fueling the public’s negative reaction to the Labor Day fatalities is the professional history of the Electric Zoo’s founder. One of the founder’s partner clubs in Chelsea, Twilo, was shut down in 2001 following two fatal MDMA overdoses. The fact that both deaths at this year’s Electric Zoo were also reported as MDMA overdoses has certainly made this tragedy a bitter pill to swallow. But where do we draw the line? Can we put all the responsibility on the clubs which organized and repeatedly turned a blind eye to illegal substance abuse? Surely, we cannot ignore the freedom of choice exercised by club and party attendees to partake in the use of illegal substances.
Who is to blame? Society, the clubs, the victims, their parents? The breakdown of the intact married family has many far-reaching effects, including an increased propensity to engage in wrong and damaging behavior, such as illegal drug use. Recent trends indicate that most twelfth graders believe that the availability of, and access to drugs has become easier and easier. And while we all know that drug abusers can come from every background, MARRI Research indicates that children of divorce have a significantly increased risk of crime, as well as drug use. Additionally, research has shown that the more youth who worship weekly exhibit the least hard drug use.
So perhaps at the end of the day, we are left only with the tasks of mourning the precious lives lost and of determinedly perpetuating a culture of intact families who worship weekly, engender healthy values, and raise children who choose not to turn to substance abuse.

The State of a Woman’s Union

abstinence, Christianity, cohabitation, feminism, intact family, marriage, religion, sexuality, teen pregnancy, women's health No comments

By Lindsay Smith, Intern
 

Dear Florida,

I heard that you are spending $45,000to research women’s sexuality within your borders.  Apparently, this information is quite valuable to you.  I know you are offering gift cards if women will complete surveys on this topic.  Good news, I think I can provide you with some answers to your search – no gift card necessary. 

Abundant research has shown that disruption within a family structure increases the likelihood of sexual debut for children. “Women whose parents separated during childhood are more likely to have an out-of-wedlock teenage pregnancy, and men with divorced or separated parents are more likely to father a child with a teenage mother.”  As expected, women from intact-married families have the lowest risk of teenage sexual debut, and fewer partners.  Marriage positively affects not only the children, but also the man and woman in the union.  Since your survey touches on a woman’s emotional well-being in relation to sex, you really should know that married couples find their sexual relationship more satisfying than cohabiters do.”

Based on your survey’s questions, I see you are curious about religious affiliation.  You were wise to ask.  According to MARRI’s publication “The Benefits of Religious Worship,” females who attend religious worship weekly are less likely than their peers to sexually debut as a teen, have a premarital pregnancy, or abort their first pregnancy. The Christian abstinence program “True Love Waits” produces similar effects for its participants.  The American Journal of Sociology’s article “Promising the Future: Virginity Pledges and First Intercourse” reports that, on average, pledging decreases the risk of sexual debut even for those in a dating relationship. 

Combining regular worship attendance with an always-intact family bolsters these effects.  As seen in diagrams here, hereand here, MARRI research verifies that teens attending weekly worship with an always-intact family are least likely to sexually debut as a teen or have a premarital pregnancy. 

Florida, you mentioned your hope “to design the state’s service offerings, including pamphlets and counseling,” based on the survey’s findings. How about offering marriage counseling to strengthen families?  What if your pamphlets included the benefits of an abstinence pledge? 

Well, I hope this letter has helped.  In case you find the survey a bit superfluous now, it is almost Christmas, and gift cards make great gifts.

Marriage and the Economy

economics, family, intact family, MARRI, marriage, news, Pat Fagan, poverty, US population No comments

Edward Glaeser in More Americans Need to Work, and to Marry (Bloomberg) writes, “America’s economy has long benefited from its well-functioning labor markets. Our high marriage and fertility rates boost demand for housing, and all its associated expenditures, and steady population growth makes it far easier to pay for social programs, such as Social Security and Medicare.”

Following close on his heels, Marriage and Economic Well-Being reviews the literature on the impact of marriage on income and savings. Our review of the available research shows that married families earn more income, hold more net worth, are less likely to be poor, and enjoy more child economic well-being and mobility than other family structures. For example, only 5.8 percent of married families were living in poverty in 2009, whereas an estimated 30 to 50 percent of single-mother families are impoverished.

The paper closes, “There is an intimate relationship between our income and wealth and our sexual culture. They rise or fall together, and thus, strange though it may seem, there is a significant connection between our sexual habits and our national economic strengths and weaknesses.”

Our social policies push against the intact married family. Our elites in academia and Hollywood and the White House push against the intact married family. Our ordinary grandparents knew more about how to have a good society than the White House or Congress does today.