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Lessons on Divorce from Henry VIII

children, divorce, education, history, MARRI No comments

By MARRI Intern

        A recent article for Smithsonian Magazine gives a brief history about divorce in the western world. The author tells the story of Henry VIII and his attempts to divorce his wife Catherine of Aragon.  In short, Henry VIII needed a son as heir and he went through six wives before he died, never acquiring the heir he required. Beyond the stories of his many wives, Henry VIII is also well-known for forming the Church of England, a reaction to the Roman Catholic Church’s refusal to grant him an annulment of his marriage to Catherine.

Though Henry was eventually granted his annulments via the newly formed Church of England, this new religious body remained very strict with divorce. At first, the laws just made it easier for men to divorce their wives since they only had to prove their spouse had committed adultery. Wives on the other hand had to prove adultery and one additional offence before they could divorce their husbands. As time has gone on, it has become easier for wives to divorce their husbands. In today’s society there is no longer a need to even prove an offense, and divorces can be procured for any reason whatsoever. From the time of Henry VIII to today, divorce has achieved incredible popularity, but in the not too distant past, divorce was looked upon as scandalous and shameful. Today, divorce is so common that nearly everyone knows at least one divorced couple.

Divorce has affected our society in a multitude of ways, from family issues to education to economic prosperity. MARRI research has shown that divorce is harmful, not only to the family but to the economy.  In one MARRI research paper, The Effect of Divorce on Children, Dr. Patrick Fagan shows that divorce weakens the family and one’s relationship with God, diminishes a child’s learning capability, increases crime, and negatively affects the economy. Additional MARRI research has also shown that family structure affects the educational outcomes of children, with those from non-intact families scoring lower on reading and math tests, and earning lower overall GPAs. Furthermore, adolescents raised in a non-intact family are far less likely to attend college as compared to their peers from intact families. For the country as a whole, divorce leads to a decline in economic prosperity due to decreased male productivity. If allowed to continue, the divorce trend spells disaster for both the family and the nation.

Marriage-Minded Community: The Wide Scope of New Research

children, community, family, MARRI, marriage No comments

 By Avery Pettway, Intern
      
          A new Harvard study released this month entitled “Where is the Land of Opportunity?: The Geography of Intergenerational Mobility in the United States” provides expanded insight and a refreshing new weight to the findings of previous MARRI research. As Brad Wilcox of the National Marriage Project explains in his January 22 article in Slate, this new study takes center stage because it is “the first major study showing that rates of single parenthood at the community level are linked to children’s economic opportunities over the course of their lives.” Experts in the realms of social science and social advocacy have long been pushing for greater attention to be given to the relation between a child’s well-being and the marital status of his parents. And as our own research has revealed, social trends in which the state has a significant interest—particularly the educational success and productive potential of children—are shaped in large part by family intactness. Another MARRI study found that while education, income, race, and ethnicity are all factors to be considered when determining positive outcomes for children, they fall short in significance compared to the level of family intactness. Harvard’s study in effect joins hands with MARRI’s findings, showing the tight link between individual family units and the entire community when it comes to the effects of broken family structure.

To many, the assertion that having married parents helps kids do better in school and in life may seem like the beating of a dead horse—but in fact, such claims are only one facet of a large and problematic reality that we as a society will soon face. Not only does single parenting put the child at greater risk of continued poverty or stagnancy—that parent’s entire community takes a blow. To understand this fully, we must consider the implications of this research in terms of which family status to promote. Marriage must be the encouraged norm of a community in order for people to thrive. In this healthy, stable, relational space, the less common single parents who find themselves in unfortunate circumstances can have the support of a married community to aid them. The intact majority bolsters the non-intact few, and all can be pushed towards mobility and strength—so long as marriage is the dominant culture of the community.

On the other hand, when single parenthood grows and marriage weakens, incomplete parental support becomes the defining culture of the area, ultimately leading a community away from economic mobility and health. As the proportion of those who need stabilizing aid grows relative to those who can give stabilizing aid, that community is already regressing and cannot offer much hope of upward mobility to its children. Encouraging marriage in the political and social realms is not intended to disregard or disrespect the single mother—in fact, as the Harvard study reveals, her children and her neighbors’ children are in theory at a disadvantage if we fail to foster a better alternative. Sadly the subjects of the study—single parents and broken family structure—are becoming more the norm in the United States as divorces increase, out-of-wedlock births rise among many people groups, and marriage loses public and political esteem. If we hope to avoid this broken outcome becoming our national standard of success, married couples must be the driving force in encouraging and supporting marriage for their communities.

Visit a Church: the Case for Religious Attendance

MARRI, religion, United Kingdom, worship No comments

By MARRI Intern

“Church sets young people right,” a recent article by Paul Wilkinson, highlights data from the UK which suggests just this.  The study, conducted by Mark Littler, “implies that the act of visiting a place of worship may trigger a significant reduction in the likelihood of involvement in certain types of criminal and delinquent behaviour.”  This claim aligns with U.S. Federal data which has shown an obvious benefit to religious practice for both the private and public good.

The Family Research Council’s Marriage and Religion Research Institute (MARRI) affirms the value of religious practice to society in the research synthesis paper “95 Social Science Reasons for Religious Worship and Practice.”  These advantages are specific to the areas of marriage and family, parenting, sexual attitudes and behavior, health, mental health, charitable giving, education, and in regards to divorce as well as addictive behaviors.  Not only is religion associated with many societal benefits, but more specifically, religious attendance is also linked with the decrease in many forms of crime and a decrease in the likelihood of engaging in risky actions.  For example, the MARRI paper emphasizes that regular church attendance among the population of black inner city youth results in a “57 percent decrease in likelihood to deal drugs and a 39 percent decrease in likelihood to commit a crime.” Religious service attendance also tends to lead to positive changes in work and school attendance of young inner-city residents.  It was also found that an increase in religiosity during the college years resulted in 75 percent of those students attaining above average grades.      

While the results of the study in the UK determined that religious practice, attendance, and affiliation are correlated with the greater good of society as a whole, it is suggested that religion is not the only way to bring about these results.  An interesting statement by Littler shows that he believes that “religious practice is just one way of gaining exposure to the pro-social behavioural norms that are at the heart of this relationship; other, more secular activities may equally serve a similar role.”

Is it merely “gaining exposure to the pro-social behavioural norms” that brings about the increase of societal good and the decrease in crime and delinquent behavior?  Perhaps not, as the research that MARRI has conducted specifically indicates that church attendance has been shown to provide these many positive benefits to society. Therefore, maybe worshipping God and learning to live according to His will is the vital element which is key to changing first the individual and then society.

For more information on how religious practice can benefit both individuals and society, visit MARRI.us.

There was black and white, but now we have Grey

family, Hollywood, MARRI, pornography No comments


By MARRI Intern
50 Shades of Grey by E.L. James is a novel about a college student named Anastasia and her relationship with young millionaire, Christian Grey. Their relationship involves not merely “hooking up” but BDSM, which stands for bondage, dominance, sadism, and masochism. The book portrays Christian and Anastasia’s relationship as violent and demeaning, rather than the intimate relationship God designed sex to be.
In addition to the 2012 novel’s buzz, Charlie Hunnam and Dakota Johnson were recently cast for the roles of Christian and Anastasia in the new Universal Pictures film.  But the impending production of a Fifty Shadesadaptation engenders deeper controversy than whether or not these actors will play their parts well.
With guarantees from Fifty Shades’ screenwriter Kelly Marcel of a NC-17 rating, a more sobering and disconcerting question to ask is how did a novel so unashamedly focused on unorthodox (to say the least) sexual practices produce enough interest and hype that a major film studio would want to produce it?  Furthermore, a recent study showed that 90% of women view pornography as degrading; and yet it has been the novel’s vast female readership that has propelled its popularity and buzz.
So why haven’t women seen 50 Shades of Grey for what it is? As a nation, we need to decide what we want our minds filled with. Will we dwell on what is pure and good or on that which morally is not?

For more on pornography’s detrimental effects, check out these MARRI resources.

Belonging to the Exception

abortion, abstinence, conscience, economics, education, family, MARRI No comments

By Lindsay Smith, Intern

Over the weekend, I was privileged to attend a lecture taught by a woman who devotes her life to pregnancy center and maternity home ministries.  Her presentation focused on the differences among generations, and how to best reach and engage the current generation, Gen Y (born 1977-1995).  According to her notes, my generation has the most disposable income and is very technologically gifted, but we also suffer from short attention spans and the inability to discern actions and consequences.  On average, Gen Y is passively characterized by (and too often actively boasts in) high levels of sexual promiscuity.  Highly influenced by the media, Gen Y’s are devoted to the doctrine of “cool,” and consequently, they explore true Biblical doctrine only when it enhances (and never contradicts) their fleeting idol of fame. 
“Why?”  Quickly this became the pervasive murmur among the audience.  She gave a few reasons, but implored us to engage in individual research, as she didn’t have time to explore all the factors involved.  Sitting there, pondering this less than glowing portrait of my generation, I could not help but recall MARRI’s “Second Annual Index of Family Belonging and Rejection.”  
According to MARRI’s report, in the United States, the national rejection score was larger than the belonging score.  Putting faces to these figures reveals the majority of children are living in a broken family as of 2009.  As the speaker described, our culture (sitcoms saturated with sex, personal credit cards, and adult privileges sans consequences) bears some responsibility for Gen Y’s behavior, but the formation of these characteristics begins with a fractured family.  As Dr. Fagan and Dr. Zill predict, “It is unavoidable that the major institutions of future families, church, school, the marketplace, and government will be similarly weakenedas these children gradually take their place within these institutions.”
And indeed, we are seeing breakdowns in these institutions as time progresses.  This weekend’s speaker noted that most of Gen Y holds only part-time employment, and many articles report an unemployed or underemployed status for Gen Y’s.  You can blame a poor economy or the need for a graduate degree, but as articulated in “162 Reasons to Marry,” we need look no further than the broken family for the origin of this trend.  A child glimpses his first working marketplace through his family.  “Within a family built on such a marriage, the child gradually learns to value and perform these five fundamental tasks of every competent adult and of every functional society” – marketplace (work) being one.  If the teaching unit is damaged, how can we expect the lesson to be whole?  If the marketplace isn’t functional in the family unit, how do we expect it to flourish on a national level?
This weekend’s speaker also commented that some large corporations won’t even hire Gen Y’s, and a quick internet search brings up quite a few articles with similar headlines.  As Kelly Clay concludes, based on recent statistics regarding employment and economy issues, “It seems more like a strong indicator of a generation with an issue of entitlement and extreme laziness – despite the opportunities that await them.”  Another recent article titled “The Go-Nowhere Generation,” seems to agree with Clay’s depiction of Gen Y or rather, “Generation Why bother.”   This article describes their lackadaisical reliance on “random” chance rather than an energetic pursuit of opportunity throughout the country. Clearly rejection at the family level is permeating the workplace and the work-ethic applied there. 
A married family does not just positively impact the marketplace.  Children from intact-married families also perform better in school, misbehave less, are more likely to remain abstinent, less likely to live in poverty, and more likely to attend church.  All of these tendencies contradict the typical characteristics of Generation Y.  Clearly, there are exceptions to this generation generalization, and belonging within a family greatly enhances one’s ability to belong to the exceptional group. 

Wedding Rentals

divorce, MARRI, marriage, monogamy No comments

By Lindsay Smith, Intern

I was sitting in class as our professor began to go around the room asking the females a question: Would you consider a prenuptial agreement?  The make-believe premise was your parents are pressuring you to protect the family fortune.  Slowly, every girl in the room responded with “Yes,” some a little more hesitant than others.  Soon it was my turn.  My answer was no.  By my professor’s reaction, you would have thought I’d added, “And I also believe the sky is orange.”  When asked to explain, I replied, “My God does not believe in divorce, and neither do I.”  Besides, if I start my marriage thinking it will not last, why get married? His response to me was something to this effect: Sweetheart, you’re an idealist who will have to change that opinion if you ever want to make it in the real world.
My professor’s presumption was that anyone who doesn’t prepare for a marriage’s dissolution is a dreamer, ignoring reality.  A recent New York Times article, “Till Death, or 20 Years, Do Us Part,” highlights the underlying issue: concern that marriage longevity is impossible.  Simply and frankly, the author asks “whether society should consider something like a 20-year marriage contract.” Should marriage now have a starting and an ending date?  Would this be better for society?  The author admits he is “surprised and even unnerved by the extent to which some experts [he] spoke with say there is a need to rethink an institution that so often fails.” 
MARRI research reveals time and again that “good marriages are the bedrock of strong societies.”  Marriage helps increase men’s productivity and employment, decrease crime, promote healthy lifestyles, and protect children both mentally and physically.  Clearly, marriage benefits society; so maybe it’s not the institution that needs reexamining, but the involved parties. 
In the Times article, Pepper Schwartz, a sociology professor, remarks, “We’re remarkably not innovative about marriage even though almost all environmental conditions, writ large, have changed.”  Two large problems with “innovation” immediately jump out.  First, if a school district had a high dropout rate, would we address the problem by inviting students to only attend school until sixth grade?  The state of Nevada has a 56% dropout rate, but I have yet to hear anyone propose short-term attendance contracts for these students.  Since this institution appears to be failing, maybe we should give all 12-year-olds the option to leave science class if it does not make them happy after the first semester.  Hopefully no parent would see this as a desirable option.  Most parents would work to help their children succeed, because they know education will benefit their children over the long run.  
Second, our society has already attempted to reinvent marriage through cohabitation.  The article doesn’t hesitate to say that “cohabitation isn’t making us happier. Bowling Green found in a 2010 study that of cohabitating couples 36% say both partners are ‘very satisfied,’ compared to 57% for married couples.” MARRI research confirms this finding.  According to “162 Reasons to Marry,” married couples enjoy better romantic relationships, greater fidelity, more economic prosperity, stronger parenting bonds, fewer instances of abuse and “higher levels of emotional and psychological well-being” than those single or cohabitating.  Our human alterations have only made things worse, so why should we expect different results from another man-derived change? 
One professor in the article wants to “eliminate the fantasy of marriage.”  A fantasy exists in our country, but it is NOT the desire for a “till death do us part” marriage.  The real far-fetched dream is that marriage is man-made convention for our convenience rather than a God-ordained covenant worthy of our commitment.
Whatever your views on religion, I think we can all agree that people are not perfect.  We make mistakes; we have selfish desires; we mess up.  This is why marriage will never work when its focus is two imperfect people.  Marriage would have to constantly change, change again, and then would still fail to satisfy everyone’s desires.  Paul articulates the outcome of a human focus in Romans 1:22-23:
“Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man…” 
When you place a divine institution on the shoulders of a created being rather than in the hands of the creator, you will end up disappointed.  (I owe this insight to a wonderful poem on marriage, which you can watch here.)  Maybe, just maybe, marriage exists more for God’s glorification than our personal gratification!  Marriage works when its focus is an unchanging, all-knowing, eternally perfect God. 
We are not idealists for believing marriage and commitment as the Author of Life designed it works today.  On the contrary, it is fantasy to think any perversion of His plan will prosper. Marriage “is the foundational relationship for all society,” and that’s neither make-believe nor scheduled to end in 20 years.   

Divorce: Breaking Down the Building Block

divorce, family, MARRI, marriage No comments

By  Maria Reig Teetor, Intern

Watch any Hollywood romance, and you might think the best reason to get married is passionate romantic love because the purpose of marriage is the satisfaction of the couple. But marriage is about more than the couple and their feelings. According to an FRC Issues Analysis brief titled “Why Marriage Should Be Privileged in Public Policy,” marriage is “the basic social building block” and “produces a stronger nation that benefits many future generations.” MARRI research shows over 150 reasons why marriage should be protected by society.
Unfortunately, the marriage institution has been weakened by decades of widespread divorce. Let’s analyze this social phenomenon.
In the past, marriage was not only the social institution that protected and provided for children, but also an economic “investment” and a safe haven. While the couple experienced romantic love, the relationship did not exist for their mutual emotions. Until the 18th century, couples were often married according to the wishes of their parents.
The rise of Romanticism encouraged a new view of marriage with the idea of “true love.” The sexual revolution took this further when it redefined relationships as a means to personal fulfillment: “Whatever works for the couple, to enhance their emotions and bring passion to the relationship, is what marriage should be all about.” Soon these emotions and sentiments became independent of childbearing, assisted by the appearance of the Pill, which helped separate sexuality both from mutual self-giving and from childbearing.
With the legalization of no-fault divorce, it became clear that marriage was only about being “in love.” This relationship was now independent of common good, community, generosity, hard work, self-giving, children….it was only about feeling an emotional bond.
Today, since marriage is considered a private transaction, any couple is free to manipulate and even reinvent marriage. As modern “love” is individualistic, so is modern marriage. The soul of marriage has become “myself.”
This new vision of romantic love convinced people they would be happier. Unfortunately, it was an illusion. The divorce rate, often due to infidelity, has only increased. The 2011 MARRI Annual Report on Family Trends documents that in the U.S the divorce rate from 1958 to 1978 went from 2.1 to 5.3! When passionate love is the reason for marriage, it can also be the reason for its dissolution when the romance disappears.
What’s the problem? Emotions and sentiments change, mature, and grow with the couple. Does this mean that married people fall “out of love”? Of course not. But it means there must be more to marriage than feelings. There must be a mutual understanding of what you want out of life, a union in your priorities, and a solid friendship. Love must be nourished in everyday life, not just passionate encounters.
So what is the answer to our growing divorce rate? We must learn to build a marriage commitment that is based on more than passing emotions. We should plan for unions that are strong enough to do what marriage was designed to do – benefit future generations.

The Sex Secret You Won’t Find in Cosmo

abstinence, MARRI, marriage, religion, sexuality, women's health No comments

Betsy Huff, Intern
 
Pick up the latest issue of Cosmopolitan magazine (or any issue for that matter) and you are sure to find a cover story on the “hottest new sex secrets.”  In fact, the aim of the publication seems to be to aid women in finding the most possible fulfillment in their sexual experiences and encounters.  There is a shocking, but not so new (in fact some may say ancient) piece of information that may change the way you view religion and sex.  
In February of 1999, U.S.A Today ran a cover story entitled “Revenge of the Church Ladies,” by William R. Mattox Jr., which revealed that some of the most sexually satisfied women in the country are religious women. It is no divine revelation that premature sexual activity has devastating effects on young girls, but a study that reveals in objective terms that religious women experience more frequent sexual responsiveness might come as a surprise.  Gone is the notion of the prudish, Victorian-minded and sexually repressed church woman the Sexual Revolution worked so hard to release! 
The study cites four factors that may contribute to sexual fulfillment in religious women. Sexual inexperience and lack of baggage from past sexual involvements contributes to a satisfactory sex life within marriage. Similarly, this lack of a sexually licentious past is related to less sexual anxiety due to guilt or fear of consequences from sexual promiscuity. Logically, sexual anxiety is a factor that inhibits sexual satisfaction.  Also, marriage in itself creates an environment for human sexuality to flourish.  The commitment and fidelity created by this relational union allows a woman to “let go” and thus experience more sexual responsiveness.  Finally, for religious women sex is more than just a physical act to meet a sensory appetite. The physical act is also spiritual and emotional; it is symbolic of a transcendent truth that the two are really “one flesh.”  
This is just one of many examplesof social science research supporting the way God intended and commanded humans to live. Other examples include evidence from MARRI research that supports the idea of an intact family as the best environment in which to raise happy, healthy, and successful children.  Other social science researchsupports these same ideas. As Dr. Pat Fagan of the Marriage and Religion Research Institute says, “The social sciences, done well, illustrate the way God made man.”

Social Science Confirms Social Values on Gay Families

MARRI, same-sex parenting studies No comments

Kevin J. Burns, Intern
Conservatives are often condemned for basing their political beliefs on their theological principles.  In contrast, science is held up as the temple of positivism and acceptance of newly-forming social norms.  Science, unlike religion, is not based on “values”; rather, it is based on hard, indisputable facts. It cuts through prejudice and tradition and gets to the truth of the matter.  I make no contentions against science.  Science, in its purest form, is indeed the quest for truth. But scientists, like all members of the human species, can be biased and have their judgment clouded.  This has been the case when considering social science studies on homosexual families – until two recent peer-reviewed social science studies came to light.
 
Dr. Loren Marks of LSU recently published a review of the current research on homosexual families in Social Science Research.  His study finds evidence in opposition to the American Psychological Association’s 2005 statement arguing that there is no difference for the children of heterosexual or gay households.  Marks finds fault with the currently available social science studies, pointing out that none of the currently available studies compares a large nationally-representative sample of gay and heterosexual parents and children to each other. Instead, he finds that most of his colleagues have considered small samples that do not represent the nation and that the studies do not hold up to the rigors of scientific peer review.  Additionally, many of these studies focus on the gay parents, not on their children. Thus, the current research considers only one aspect of the family – the parents – while failing to consider the longest-term results of the relationship, as the children of gay parents mature and move into the world.
Dr. Mark Regnerus of UT Austin seeks to remedy this failing with his own study, also published in Social Science Research. Regnerus uses a large population sample and studies 2,988 children over 21 years, from ages 18 to 39. Among other things, Regnerus found that children of gay parents are far more likely to have received public assistance at some point during their lives, are less likely to be employed, less likely to vote regularly, and more likely to have been sexually abused and have suffered from sexually transmitted infections. It is important to note that this study considers only correlation; it does not look to causation. Regnerus does not argue that gay parents are bad parents.  His research merely points out that, on average, the children of gay parents are far more likely to suffer certain social ills. Regnerus does not deal with social values or theology, but with statistics.
Every child deserves the most stable family structure possible.  Family structure is obviously critical to the health and well-being of the children of that family, as MARRI showed in its Annual Report on Family Trends.  Equality is a beautiful and important thing, engrained in the character of the American republic.  However, it is logically impossible to argue for equality for gay couples while ignoring the inequality of outcomes evident among their children.

Green Sex= Great Marriage?

contraception, divorce, MARRI, women's health No comments

Katie Staudt, Intern
Last week, MARRI blogger Amanda Brennan wrote a post entitled “Green Sex” (see a few posts below). Amanda explained how there is a strong push in society to “Go Green” in order to be better stewards of both the earth and the human body. Yet, at the same time, over 40% of women between 15-44 are using some form of hormonal birth control that pumps dangerous chemicals into their bodies. So while people are attempting to be organic and healthy, they are sabotaging their own efforts by using hormonal contraceptives that have a number of health risks.
However, some people are beginning to question the use of hormonal birth control (and all forms of artificial birth control) for more than just its health risks. A new website called 1Flesh is a grass roots effort that was just launched by a group of young people as a “revolt against artificial birth control” with the goal to “bringing great sex to the entire universe.” 1flesh.orgis a provocative website (read their “About Us” page) that asks their readers to consider a host of compelling arguments from a secular viewpoint, primarily utilizing the fields of medicine, sociology, and philosophy.
One argumentthat 1Flesh presents is the connection between divorce and artificial contraception. They state that “the national divorce rate doubled from 1965 to 1976, at the same time the use of artificial contraception was made widespread and acceptable.” This is no coincidence. Distinguished sociologist Robert Michael from the University of Chicago, in his analysis “Why did the U.S. Divorce Rate Double within a Decade” (published in Research in Population Economics) explained that the “sudden widespread use of artificial contraception during the same period is responsible for about half (45%) of this increase.” MARRI’s working paper on the correlates and effects of contraceptive use cites the same research. I’d suggest reading the whole argument presented by 1Flesh regarding divorce rates, especially if you’re still skeptical; but assuming the research is true, we must consider the implications of divorce. 
Divorce, while widely accepted, has catastrophic effects for the individuals involved and for society at large. Children are particularly harmed by divorce, as clearly illustrated by MARRI’s  “Effects of Divorce on Children.” It shows that children of divorced parents generally have lower educational attainment, weaker relationships with their parents, earlier and greater sexual promiscuity, more social and psychological problems, greater risk of marital problems and divorce later in life, and many other negative effects.
If the research is correct and artificial contraception indeed leads or contributes to higher divorce rates, perhaps green sex is not only healthier for your body; it might make for a healthier marriage and society, too.