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Football, Fatherhood, and Religion

child well-being, family, fathers, MARRI, marriage, religion No comments
By MARRI Interns
 
The joy caused by the advent of the Super Bowl this Sunday quickly transforms into melancholy for many men who acknowledge with lamentation that the Super Bowl marks the termination of football season. How ought those men to spend those superfluous hours on Sunday that were previously occupied with football? A trove of social science research suggests quite strongly that it might be best for them, for their marriage, and for their children to head to church.
A number of prominent Evangelical leaders are rediscovering the importance of appealing to men to return to involvement in the church. Dr. John Piper’s 2012 Pastors Conference is entitled “God, Manhood, and Ministry: Building Men for the Body of Christ.” Pastor Mark Driscoll at Mars Hill Church of Seattle has long been an ardent advocate of masculine maturity exemplified through religious attendance and participation.
Perhaps this is all of no importance. Perhaps it is just another attempt by several pastors to fill their pews. Or perhaps these men are on to something far more significant about the nature and benefits of male participation in the life of the church. And indeed, it is this latter proposition that seems to be vindicated by much of the social science research that MARRI and others are doing. The social science bears out that it is not only ministry leaders who have reason to champion male reengagement with the church; male church attendance correlates with significant benefits for society as a whole, since it contributes to the stability of the family and the success of children.
These societal benefits are observed by a large number of researchers, among whom are W. Bradford Wilcox, whose book “Soft Patriarchs, New Men: How Christianity Shapes Fathers and Husbands” (U Chicago Press, 2004) treats this subject in great detail. Constraining his research only to a comparison between Conservative Protestants, Mainline Protestants, and fathers with no religious affiliation, Wilcox presents detailed evidence showing that Conservative Protestants are more likely to be involved fathers and loving husbands than are those of no religious affiliation at all: 

Conservative Protestant married men with children are consistently more active and expressive with their children than unaffiliated men and are often more engaged with their children than mainline Protestant fathers. Furthermore, conservative Protestant family men are more likely than unaffiliated men to do positive emotion work in their marriages and are more consistently engaged emotionally in their marriages than mainline men. So the charges that conservative Protestantism fosters authoritarian and other stereotypical displays of masculinity among its family are overdrawn. [emphasis added]

Dr. Wilcox’s research shows that the impact of religion on family life is significant and well worth detailed study. That is why, in a forthcoming paper on the Effects of Religion on Marriage, MARRI presents a comprehensive picture of the benefits for marriage that accrue when partners participate in religious activity (particularly joint weekly worship). The forthcoming paper analyzes the effects of religion on marriage from a number of angles. MARRI’s Mapping America products virtually unanimously support the assertion that religion strengthens marriage in a number of significant and variegated ways.

So men, for the sake of your wife and your children, go to church this Sunday. Besides, unless your pastor is particularly long-winded, you’ll have plenty of time before the Super Bowl starts.

Belonging and Rejection, State by State

child well-being, family, MARRI, marriage, social institutions, social policy No comments

By Anna Dorminey, Staff

We at MARRI have broken down the data from the Second Annual Index of Family Belonging and Rejection by state, and are pleased to present you with the Index of Family Belonging and Rejection: State by State (2011).

From State by State:

This version of the Index is a breakdown, state by state, of the data published in that 2011 Index. Each page compares individual state performance on various child outcomes (high school graduation rate, eighth grade NAEP reading scores, child poverty, and births to unmarried teenagers). This permits the comparison of each state to the weakest and strongest states in each outcome category. Because social policy is executed at the state level, a breakdown of this data state by state is natural and fitting.

We hope that this version of the Index will be informative to both state legislators and citizens.

How Divorce Hurts Children

child well-being, crime, divorce, education, family, MARRI, marriage, religion No comments

By Anna Dorminey, Staff

MARRI’s latest Research Synthesis paper, The Effects of Divorce on Children, discusses the myriad ways in which divorce directly and indirectly hurts children.

Each year, over a million American children suffer the divorce of their parents. Divorce causes irreparable harm to all involved, but most especially to the children. Though it might be shown to benefit some individuals in some individual cases, over all it causes a temporary decrease in an individual’s quality of life and puts some “on a downward trajectory from which they might never fully recover.”[1]

The paper discusses divorce’s effects across six categories:

· Family: The parent-child relationship is weakened, and children’s perception of their ability (as well as their actual ability) to develop and commit to strong, healthy romantic relationships is damaged.

· Religious practice: Divorce diminishes the frequency of worship of God and recourse to Him in prayer.

· Education: Children’s learning capacity and educational attainment are both diminished.

· The marketplace: Household income falls and children’s individual earning capacity is cut deeply.

· Government: Divorce significantly increases crime, abuse and neglect, drug use, and the costs of compensating government services.

· Health and well-being: Divorce weakens children’s health and longevity. It also increases behavioral, emotional, and psychiatric risks, including even suicide.

 

Math, Marriage, and Church- What’s the Connection?

children, education, family, MARRI, marriage, religion, single parents No comments

By Anna Dorminey, Staff

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.

Keep tabs on marri.frc.org for more Mapping America productions!

Huffington Post on the Male “Need” to Cheat

commitment, family, MARRI, marriage, men, monogamy, pornography, sexuality No comments

By Anna Dorminey, Staff

The Huffington Post’s Vicki Larson writes:

Monogamy is failing men.

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?

The Benefits of Religious Worship: Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah!

MARRI, religion, social institutions, social science No comments

By Anna Dorminey, Staff

U.S. federal surveys repeatedly show the benefits of weekly religious worship of God (one of the five main institutions or tasks of society). Worship’s rewards flow over to all the other major institutions of the nation: to the family, to education, to the marketplace and income, and to government…Furthermore, the more frequently people worship, the more they profit. If the social sciences say anything clearly about God, it is that the more people take heed of Him, the more He takes care of them.

The publication contains data on all sorts of social and personal outcomes, such as educational attainment, family strength, sexual chastity, and more. Across all categories, it is clear that weekly worship contributes to the strongest outcomes.

This publication is comprised of graphics that originally appeared in the MARRI Mapping America series, which are derived from data from the largest national and federal surveys on family issues, such as the General Social Survey, the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, the National Survey of Children’s Health, and the National Survey of Family Growth.

We hope that the findings shown here encourage our readers, in this holiday season, to worship weekly and to reap the advantages that consistent religious practice offers to families, individuals, their communities, and the nation.

Pew Report Shows Percent of Married Americans is at a Record Low

MARRI, marriage, news, social institutions, social science No comments

By Anna Dorminey, Staff

Barely half of all adults in the United States—a record low—are currently married, and the median age at first marriage has never been higher for brides (26.5 years) and grooms (28.7), according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census data…In 1960, 72% of all adults ages 18 and older were married; today just 51% are. If current trends continue, the share of adults who are currently married will drop to below half within a few years.

The full report states that approximately 44% of 18- to 29-year-olds agree that marriage is “becoming obsolete,” compared to 41% of 30- to 49-year-olds, 34% of 50- to 64-year-olds, and 32% of those 65 and older. Blacks and Hispanics were more likely to believe that marriage was becoming obsolete than whites, and those without a college degree (some college: 41%, high school or less: 45%) were far more likely to agree that marriage was becoming obsolete than Americans with a college degree (27%).

However, the report also states that “attitudes toward the institution of marriage do not always match personal wishes about getting married. Asked whether they want to get married, 47% of unmarried adults who agree that marriage is becoming obsolete say that they would like to wed.”

In its reporting on this Pew publication, the Washington Post included an interactive map showing the family structure and population density of the United States by county and state. The map showed that 44% of residents in the District of Columbia live alone, 14.1% are married with no children, 10.6% are single parents, and a mere 7.9% are married with children.

For more on marriage trends and on the economic and social need to preserve marriage, see the Pew Research Center’s series The Decline of Marriage and MARRI Original Research papers “Decline of Economic Growth: Human Capital & Population Change,” “Our Fiscal Crisis: We Cannot Tax, Spend and Borrow Enough to Substitute for Marriage” and “Marriage, Contraception & The Future of Western Peoples.”

Marriage, Contraception, and Where the West is Headed

family, MARRI, marriage, religion, US population, world population No comments

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.

The Second Annual Index of Family Belonging and Rejection

child well-being, commitment, family, MARRI, marriage, poverty, single parents, youth No comments
By Anna Dorminey, Staff

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.

Index Highlights:

· 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.

National Adoption Month and the President’s Proclamation

adoption, children, family, fathers, MARRI, marriage, mothers, same-sex parenting No comments

By Anna Dorminey, Staff

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.

That said, not all family structures are equally effective at raising children. As shown again and again by Mapping America, as well as Marriage, Family Structure, and Children’s Educational Attainment and our research synthesis paper Marriage and Economic Well-Being, intact married families, with a mother and a father, that worship weekly produce the best results for their children—educationally, financially, religiously, and otherwise.

What do you think? Do you think family structure itself is part of what makes a potential adoptive parent a “qualified caregiver”? Let us know what you think in the comments section!