religion

religion

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.

Put Your Money Where Your Marriage Is

culture, human capital, marriage, mothers, poverty, religion, teen pregnancy No comments
Lindsay Smith, Intern

“16 and Pregnant,” “Teen Moms,” and countless other reality shows have popularized and perhaps even glamorized the lives of unmarried mothers in our society.   In addition, the trend of popular female celebrities becoming single mothers furthers the attention.  While Hollywood portrays this family structure as desirable and even empowering for women, the true hardships of single motherhood are not always given their just time in the spotlight.  Let me be clear, I applaud single and unwed mothers for choosing life for their babies, a valiant decision in a culture which all but hands them a “get out of motherhood free” card.  No, the solution to the plight of the single mother does not come from abortion, but rather from Marriage. 

The Houston Chronicle recently released an article titled Figures show struggle worsening for single mothers,” which shares the stories and struggles of several single moms straining to make ends meet.  According to the article, “41 percent of households headed by single women with children live in poverty – nearly triple the national poverty rate, according to 2010 census data.”  This percentage alone should seize our attention.  However, combine it with the fact that more than half of single mothers over age twenty rely on public assistance, and these statistics don’t softly whisper for concern.   They deafeningly cry for action – or should I say results.  Many in government have championed action through the years: job training, GED programs, welfare.  These actions seem to only create a treadmill – lots of movement but no upward mobility – and find many of their recipients in the same place year after year.  At the article’s conclusion, Robert Rector from the Heritage Foundation summarizes it best: “The welfare state has been about picking up the pieces from non-marital births, and it’s not working. The reality is that you can’t create a substitute father.”
MARRI’s studies confirm Mr. Rector’s assertion.  An intact married family has the highest average income and net worth and experiences less poverty than other family types, all of which carries over to their children’s well-being.  On the reverse side, according to these studies, “A non-intact family background increases by over 50 percent a boy’s odds of ending up in the lowest socioeconomic level.”  Family structure has not only immediate effects but also intergenerational effects on a child’s economic status.  Females who grow up in an intact married family are far less likely to have a non-marital pregnancy than those who were raised in an always single-parent family.  In case anyone is tempted to think this only applies to single mothers, studies also show married men have a higher rate of employment than single men.   Let’s not forget that God’s design was to give Adam both a job and a helper, who was Eve.  Speaking of God’s design, learning about His plan for marriage and family appears to significantly affect this female demographic.  The Fragile Families and Child Well-Being Survey reports that “urban mothers who attend church frequently are at least 70 percent more likely to be married when they give birth or to get married within one year of a nonmarital birth than are urban mothers who do not attend church frequently.”
As one of the moms in the Chronicle article poignantly expresses, “Sometimes I think I’m in a big hole and I can’t see the light, but then I know God is big and there’s something big for me.”  And she is right.  Perhaps we should all stop asking people what their temporary aid for single mothers would be, and remind ourselves of God’s unchanging, perfect (and big) plan for the family.

Failing Schools or Failing Families?

education, marriage, religion, social institutions No comments

By: Eileen Gallagher, Intern

On June 20 the Gallup Poll stated that only 29% of Americans have confidence in our public school system, a new low.
Meanwhile Pew Research Center reported that “In 1960, 72% of all adults ages 18 and older were married; today just 51% are.”
These two facts appear to be unrelated, but last year The Heritage Foundation published an article on education which pointed out that “In 2009, white public school eighth-graders outscored their black classmates by one standard deviation (equivalent to roughly two and a half years of learning) on the math portion of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) test.”
Meanwhile, “according to the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, by the age of thirty nearly 81 percent of white women … will marry, but that only 52 percent of black women will marry by that age.”
Are these two facts also unrelated?
Confidence in public schools system is very low, and the marriage rate is also very low. African America students are, academically, far behind white students, and the African American marriage rate is very far behind the white marriage rate. The first rule of statistics is that correlation is not causation. While there may be a correlation between marriage rates and educational outcomes, it does not follow that one causes the other.
The family and the school are both institutions in society, and as such each has a specific role to play in the development of people in a society. Institutions are connected to one another, but each institution must fulfill its individual function for society as a whole to thrive.  The family is the most important institution because it is the first and the most natural. Children spend the first 5  years of their life participating mainly in that institution because all the others, such as education, government, the market, and even religion, have more of an impact later in life. Each family is responsible for the initial formation of a person, and if that formation does not take place, every other institution will struggle to fulfill its role in the formation of the same person. An analogy will make this more clear. Two sculptors are working on a statue. One is more capable of shaping the marble into the figure of a person, but the other sculptor is better at sculpting details. It is necessary for the first sculptor to shape the person well enough so that the second sculptor can begin where he left off. If the first does not shape the head of the statue, how can the second make a nose for the statue? In the same way, if the family does not lay the foundations well, the other institutions will have a very difficult, and perhaps impossible, task.
Social Science proves that an intact family structure is highly correlated with educational outcomes. The Marriage and Religion Research Institute found that children from intact families who worship weekly are more likely to receive a Bachelor’s Degree and to receive A’s in school.
The next Gallup Poll should assess confidence in the family. If families are doing well it is very likely that schools will start succeeding as well.

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.”

Spirituality and Sexuality: Already on a Campus Near You

abstinence, Christianity, marriage, religion No comments
Julia Polese, Intern
In Sex and the Soul: Juggling Sexuality, Spirituality, Religion and Romance on America’s College Campuses, Donna Freitas examinesthe interplay between spirituality and sexuality on seven different college campuses across the United States. After conducting hundreds of surveys and face-to-face interviews, she discovered that colleges divided into two categories: evangelical and “spiritual.” The spiritual schools – Catholic, private nonreligious, and public universities – were characterized by a dominant hookup culture and students who considered themselves “spiritual, but not religious.” She noted that while most of the students at these spiritual schools asked sincere questions about truth and a “Higher Power,” they did not believe these questions had anything to do with their sexuality. The evangelical schools presented a different picture. Most students assumed prima facie a picture of their sexuality inextricably linked to marriage and their faith. Their sexual choices were also spiritual (and religious) choices, and chastity was the overwhelming norm and ideal at evangelical colleges.
 
Some students interviewed realized that there must be something off about the hookup culture: many women reported feeling disappointed when a one-night stand did not turn into something more, some men wondered about the effects their choices would have when their decided that it was time to “be in love” and settle down. Freitas’ book is important because it reveals a significant season of habit-formation for many, if not most, young people today. MARRI’s research shows how important the interaction between religiosity and marriage is in sustaining an organized society. If a majority of college students spend four years divorcing questions of their sexuality’s effect on their souls, they form habits of compartmentalization that follow them for the rest of their lives. In Mapping America, MARRI shows how family structure and religious attendance positively affect myriad aspects of life. The integration of marriage and relationship choices and religion and spirituality is of utmost importance, and it is to college students’ detriment if they do not learn to do this in a real way in the most formative years of their lives.

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.

Can Cohabitation Lead To Fulfillment?

abstinence, Christianity, cohabitation, marriage, religion No comments
Obed Bazikian, Intern

Marriage Savers President Mike McManus relays in a recent articlea talk Pope Benedict XVI gave to United States Catholic Bishops in which he urged them to address the issue of cohabitation. Pope Benedict stated, “It is increasingly evident that a weakened appreciation of the indissolubility of the marriage covenant, and the widespread rejection of a responsible mature sexual ethic in the practice of chastity, have led to grave societal problems bearing an immense human and economic cost.”

There is a devaluing of the idea of commitment in our culture that is affecting U.S.couples from pledging their lives to each other. A possible cause for this is the population has become unhealthily focused on themselves. The individual is so elevated over his neighbor or community that if anything endangers personal happiness, it is avoided. Sadly, this has included marriage. However, science has claimed the opposite. One studyhas shown that “married couples enjoy more relationship quality and happiness than cohabiters.” The modern understanding of personal fulfillment and relationships has blinded us to the reality that in covenant there is actually increased happiness.
Perhaps an analogy can better explain the difference between cohabitation and marriage. If I could hold in hand my life, and then close my hand, I would certainly have and be able to enjoy my life. However, I would be unable to receive anything from others because my hand is closed. I may show at times what is in my hand, but in fear of losing what is mine, I never let go. However, if I was to open my hand and give up my life, only then am I in the position to receive life from another. It is the same regarding cohabitation and marriage. A cohabiter allows a glimpse to their partner, but never fully gives up his life. Only in the true commitment of marriage can one fully and wholeheartedly give and receive life and happiness.

Gallup on Well-Being and Religion

culture, MARRI, religion, social institutions No comments
MARRI Interns
The incisive social critic H.L. Menken famously described Puritanism as “the haunting fearthat someone, somewhere, may be happy.”  In the eyes of a not insubstantial portion of the population, this sentiment has been mass-produced and broadbrushed across the entire landscape of religion.  Surely it is by now axiomatic that religious people are little more than repressed, uptight, morose discontents with personal vendettas to search out and destroy any wayward vestiges of amusement that might be illicitly had. 
But, as is often the case, a large body of research suggests otherwise.  A February 16, 2012, headline by the Gallup organization declares “Religious Americans Enjoy Higher Wellbeing.”  Gallup drew upon a massive sample of 676,000 interviews conducted over the course of two years to declare decisively that “the statistically significant relationship between religiousness and wellbeing holds up after controlling for numerous demographic variables.”  In six out of seven categories, including Life Evaluation Index, Emotional Health Index, Healthy Behaviors Index, Work Environment Index, and the Basic Access Index, very religious Americans score higher than nonreligious or moderately religious Americans (the exceptional category is the Physical Health Index). 
This research confirms earlier research conducted by MARRI, including studies detailing the Benefits of Religious Attendance and Religious Practice and Educational Attainment.  These and other studies demonstrate that the side effects of religious practice are unequivocally desirable and beneficial both to the wellbeing of the individual and the strength of the society.  Given this social science data, it would seem that the wit of Menken and the general suspicion against religion that his comments represent might be in need of revisitation and revision. Despite these popular misconceptions, the data demonstrate that religious people are undeniably, but perhaps not inexplicably, happy.

Importance of Being Married and Religious Attendance

Christianity, culture, MARRI, marriage, religion No comments

By MARRI Interns

A recent Mississippi State University (MSU) study was conducted to find possible reasons for marital longevity, particularly among African American couples. Keri Collins Lewis reports on the researchdone by MSU professors Tommy M. Phillips, assistant professor in MSU’s School of Human Sciences, and Joe D. Wilmoth, associate professor in the School of Human Ecology at Louisiana State University, who focused on long standing married couples in historically black churches in Mississippi. Overall, African-American couples believed that their marital success is attributed to faith, with specific denotation to help from God more than any other category.
 
The self-assessed questionnaire used in the study contained open-ended questions and forced-choice questions, the first of which asked both spouses together for the top reason their marriage endured. The results were “God/Jesus” first (51%), then love (31%), and good communication (23%) third. God, or Jesus, is recognized by more than half of those studied as the enduring factor in marriage. In a society that is becoming increasingly secular, this is not to be taken lightly. Later questions asked individually further explain this point. Spouses were asked separately whether faith was important to their marital longevity, upon which 93 and 94 percent of husbands and wives respectively agreed “faith was a very important factor.” Regarding prayer, 88 and 97 percent of husbands and wives respectively pray one or more times per day. And church attendance: 91 and 99 percent attend once or more per week.
 
Marriage and Religion Research Institute has published research from the General Social Survey which shows marriage is highly valued among many who practice their faith. In the Mapping America series number 82, The Personal Importance of Being Married by Religious Attendance, it states, “Adults who attend religious services at least weekly are more likely to report that being married is personally very important to them than those who worship less frequently.” The data used in the paper is collected from the General Social Survey (1972-2006), and concluded that 60.5 percent of adults who attend religious services more than once a week view marriage as very important. The people who take marriage more seriously are indeed people of faith and it is incumbent upon those who practice faith to see marriage succeed, both personally and in others.
There are two possible arguments against the veracity of this study. One is that this finding is representative of only 71 couples. However, while this study is small, it is valuable because of its focus. Dr. Phillips’s study states most previous studies on black couples have been “problem-oriented” with little exploration of marital longevity. A second critique may by that the research targeted black churches instead of the black population as a whole. Critics might therefore see this study as biased and discredit the results. However, as Lewis uncovers from Dr. Wilmoth, this method was with good reason: “‘When we looked for ways to find African-American couples with long-standing marriages, we discovered the most reasonable way to contact them was through their churches,’ Wilmoth said. ‘We believe our sample is reasonably representative because almost 90 percent of African Americans identify themselves with a church, and those who are married are even more likely to attend.’” Since a majority of married black couples attend church, it is logical and practical to focus on finding couples in the church, and to consider the results of this study informative as to reasons for marital longevity.

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.