To subscribe to our weekly Faith and Family Findings: click here.
cohabitation

cohabitation

Marriage Still Stands

cohabitation, divorce, marriage No comments
Obed Bazikian, Intern
The Associated Press (AP) wrote an article in the Christian Science Monitor entitled, “Cohabitation before marriage? It’s no greater divorce risk.”  The article used a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, part of the US National Institute of Health, which sought to discover “trends and group differences” between marital statuses of those aged 15 to 44 years. When analyzing the AP article to the actual study, the article turns out to be rather misleading.
The title the AP used implies that divorce is not more likely for those who cohabitated before marriage than for those who maintained chastity. However, when going to the CDC study itself, this statement is found false. The study examined marriage survival of men and women in 5-year intervals from 5 to 20 years. In every interval, those who did not cohabitate with their future spouse had a greater chance of marriage survival than those who did cohabitate. The probability between these categories is often close in comparison, but the title blatantly misrepresents the facts. It would have been accurate to claim that in some of the year intervals, the difference was statistically insignificant. The study even specifies, “Looking at 20 years duration, women who had never cohabited with their first husband before marriage had a higher probability of marriage survival (57%), compared with women who had cohabited with their first spouse before marriage.”
There are more examples than just comparing the title, and discerning readers should examine both texts. This is yet another example of the media attempting to alter our culture’s perception of marriage, and to make cohabitation more palatable. However, even with their quoted data, marriage still stands. For further critique of the AP’s paper, check out Glenn Stanton’s article in National Review magazine. Also, for numerous publications and research that support marriage, please visit the Marriage and Religion Research’s website.

Individualism in Marriage

children, cohabitation, marriage, social institutions No comments
MARRI Interns
An increasingly disturbing trend in Americatoday is the growing emphasis and view that marriage is about personal and mutual fulfillment with no essential link to children. Much of this mindset is synonymous with a more individualistic outlook on life. Mercatornet describes the typical individual as believing that marriage is “being there for the other person and helping them when they’re down, helping them get through tough times, cheering them up when they’re sad.” Ricky says, “You know, just pretty much improving each other’s lives together.” In other words, marriage is about mutual help and companionship.
 
While part of marriage is in fact about relationship between two individuals, this definition leaves out the emphasis on children. Mercatornet further foundthat “young adults’ belief in marriage as commitment and permanence comes with an asterisk: so long as both spouses are happy and love each other.” The growing idea that marriage is simply a union between two people to make each other happy is incomplete. According to Amber and David Lapp, marriage is about something more than simply two separate individuals coming together.
 
According to the Survey of Consumer Finance, the net worth of cohabitating families with children was only $16,540, as opposed $120,250 for intact families (“Child’s Right to Marriage of Parents”).In addition, according to Robert Whelan, Broken Homes and Broken Children, children living in cohabiting homes are also 33 times more likely to suffer serious child abuse than children living with their biological parents (“Child’s Right to Marriage of Parents”).
 
If marriage could not possibly result in children, then it would be fine for individuals to only consider themselves in their future. However, that is clearly not the case. Marriage is not simply the union of two consenting individuals as long as they remain happy; marriage is a lasting bond and commitment that not only includes the man and the woman, but also the children, who together define the family.

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.

American Demography: Meet the Parents

cohabitation, education, family, human capital, MARRI, marriage, poverty 1 comment
By MARRI Interns
Over the weekend, the New York Times published a front page article by Jason Deparle and Sabrina Tavernise reporting on new data by Child Trends (“For Women Under 30, Most Births Occur Outside Marriage,” Feb. 18, 2012). But the objective data that the unassuming title portends quickly gives way to a remarkable synthesis of logical flaws, selective data interpretation, and glaring oversights which all culminate in an irredeemably confused analysis of contemporary American demography.

The raw data is not the cause of these accusations. The burgeoning number of children born outside of marriage is beyond dispute and is, as Deparle and Tavernise rightly note, a trend that is observable through the past five decades. Only slightly less controversial is the assertion that this trend has been decisively harmful to the development of the children involved. The article is thus correct in noting, “Researchers have consistently found that children born outside marriage face elevated risks of falling into poverty, failing in school or suffering emotional and behavioral problems.” The article also includes the admission by Susan Brown, a sociologist from Bowling Green State University, that “children born to married couples, on average, ‘experience better education, social, cognitive, and behavioral outcomes.’” It is simply no longer a point of debate that children raised in monogamous, married, intact families perform incomparably better than do children raised in other family structures.

The article is lacking not because of flaws in the data but because Deparle and Tavernise’s interpretation of that data is erroneous and relatively dismissive. It is already established that these trends are pernicious toward children and society as a whole. Why then this facile intimation that such trends are somehow of nominal significance, that the increase of children born to unwed parents does not bode poorly for the future, and that marriage is somehow, in the words of University of Pennsylvania sociologist Frank Furstenberg, “a luxury good,” in the face of volumes of sociological evidence to the contrary?

The confusion inherent in the article is made manifest in the implicit insinuation that such trends are simply to be accepted passively as an irremediable feature of American demography, and that the circumstances which occasioned their advent were regrettably unavoidable. Deparle and Tavernise’s interpretation of the data is a reductionist one that explains the decline in marriage as attributable almost entirely to economics and education. While DeParle and Tavernise rightly assert that “men are worth less than they used to be,” they provide no explanation for that development.  But the research presented in MARRI’s 162 Reasons to Marry shows definitively that men are worth less because they fail to marry, and that marriage correlates with significant increases in working hours, productivity, and wages for men. Furthermore, married, intact families save more, have higher average net worth, enjoy more rapid net worth growth, and are less likely to be impoverished than any other family structures. None of these benefits apply to cohabiting couples, the very structure identified by Deparle and Tavernise as the source of most of the new nonmarital births. The research supporting these conclusions is copious and consistently strengthened by newer studies. By contrast, the analysis provided in the NYTarticle has the causal link exactly backwards, and in ironic fashion, the cohabiting couples or single parents interviewed for the anecdotal segments of the article are also, by their intentional decision not to marry, unintentionally ensuring the propagation to their children of the very circumstances they attribute to be the cause of their familial instability, and thereby putting their children at a disadvantage, not shielding them from the potential devastation of a fractured marriage.

Nor are the beneficial aspects of involvement by both parents in a stable marriage for the children merely financial. MARRI’s 2011 Index of Belonging and Rejection demonstrates that children from intact, stable families have higher high school graduation rates and standardized tests scores and a lower incidence of teenage out-of-wedlock births, among other indicators. The data resound to indicate that mothers—even financially stable mothers—cannot so quickly dispense with the fathers of their children, nor can women be removed from a society without grave repercussions, as previous entries in this blog have noted. An indelible interconnectedness binds private behavior and public well-being together, and this ever-increasing volume of studies demonstrates that the sexes are not as independent and isolated as might be thought. It would seem that fathers and mothers are not mutually expendable baggage to be jettisoned capriciously for the sake of convenience, but are rather integral components of successful families and society as a whole.

A Foundational Difference Between Cohabitation and Marriage

cohabitation, marriage No comments

By Obed Bazikian, Intern

In a Catholic News Agency article, Benjamin Mann reports on a critique of a study showing the positive effects of cohabitation over marriage. The article references a book by Dr. Scott Yenor of Boise State University, where he discusses a study by Dr. Kelly Musick and Professor Larry Bumpass on cohabitation. Dr. Musick of Cornell Universityconcluded that “marriage is by no means unique in promoting well-being, and that other forms of romantic relationships can provide many of the same benefits.” Musick goes on to say, “While married couples experience health gains, cohabitating couples experienced greater gains in happiness and self-esteem. For some, cohabitation may come with fewer unwanted obligations than marriage and allow for more flexibility, autonomy, and personal growth.”
Arguments of cohabitation and the institution of marriage are ideologically separate at its foundation. Proponents of cohabitation, as Yenor and Mann point out, claim individual happiness as the end goal, with little or no regard for the happiness between the couple. The language Musick uses such as “unwanted obligations,” “autonomy,” and “personal growth” suggests nothing of health of the relationship, but only individual fulfillment and happiness. I would suggest that there is more to a relationship than seeking individual, or selfish, happiness. There is other research that claims couples in an intact marriage have more fulfillment than cohabiters.  In the Marriage and Religion Research Institute’s 162 Reasons to Marry, Reason 8 shows that three studies concluded that “[m]arried couples enjoy more relationship quality and happiness than cohabiters.”  It is indeed possible for one to claim individual happiness in a cohabiting relationship, without the commitment of marriage. However, relationships outside of the marriage commitment bring with them the possibility of abandonment—and this is not a foundation for relational fulfillment.  It is only within the marriage covenant that there is security, thus producing the quality of relationship and trust couples truly seek.

162 Reasons to Marry

child well-being, cohabitation, crime, divorce, domestic violence, education, family, MARRI, marriage, men's health, poverty, religion, women's health No comments
By Anna Dorminey, Staff
We are excited to present 162 Reasons to Marry, a (by no means comprehensive) list of the benefits and reasons for marriage.

Good marriages are the bedrock of strong societies. All other relationships in society stem from the father-mother relationship, and these other relationships thrive most if that father-mother relationship is an intimate, closed husband-wife relationship. Our nation depends on good marriages to yield strong revenues, good health, low crime, high education, and high human capital

Here are a few selections from “162 Reasons to Marry”:

4. Those from an intact family are more likely to be happily married.

6. Those from intact families are less likely to divorce. 

27. Married men and women report the most sexual pleasure and fulfillment. 

33. Adults who grew up in an intact married family are more likely than adults from non-intact family structures to attend religious services at least monthly. 

37. Children of married parents are more engaged in school than children from all other family structures.

48. Adolescents from intact married families are less like to be suspended, expelled, or delinquent, or to experience school problems than children from other family structures. 

69. The married family is less likely to be poor than any other family structure. 

79. Married men are less likely to commit crimes. 

93. Married women are less likely to be abused by their husband than cohabiting women are to be abused by their partner.

99. Children in intact married families suffer less child abuse than children from any other family structure.

104. Married people are more likely to report better health, a difference that holds for the poor and for minorities.

119. Married men and women have higher survival rates after being diagnosed with cancer.  

126. Married people have lower mortality rates, including lower risk of death from accidents, disease, and self-inflicted injuries.

132. Married women have significantly fewer abortions than unmarried women. 

149. Married people are least likely to commit suicide.

We’ve found 162 reasons to marry — what can you add to the list?

Why Aren’t Young Couples Marrying?

cohabitation, divorce, marriage No comments

By Anna Dorminey, Staff

Physorg recently reported on an article by Cornell University professor Sharon Sassler and Cornell doctoral student Dela Kusi-Appouh entitled “The Specter of Divorce: Views from Working and Middle-Class Cohabitors.”

Physorg reported that over two thirds of cohabiting couples surveyed “admitted to concerns about dealing with the social, legal, emotional and economic consequences of a possible divorce.” Middle-class respondents were generally more hopeful about marriage than lower-class respondents and considered cohabitation a logical step before marrying. Working-class cohabiting couples were particularly likely to think of legal marriage as “just a piece of paper” and were disproportionately likely to confess “fears about being stuck in marriage with no way out” once they had come to rely on the income generated by their partner [emphasis added].

Physorg reported that “[t]he authors hope that their findings could help premarital counselors to better tailor their lessons to assuage widespread fears of divorce.” To read the full Physorg article, click here.

Four Weddings, a Funeral, and Chastity

cohabitation, commitment, Hollywood, marriage, sexual revolution No comments

By Anna Dorminey, Staff

When it comes to relationships, at times it’s difficult to determine whose advice to take to heart and whose to ignore. While I don’t consider myself an authority on the subject, I don’t think I’ll meet much resistance when I say that romantic comedies are not a fount of realistic or wise counsel.
Case in point: “Four Weddings and a Funeral.” The film was a major hit when it premiered in 1994; it was the highest-grossing British film to that point and received warm praise from critics. The story is set in Englandand follows a set of seven or eight single friends as they attend weddings and funerals. Among them is charmingly awkward and bumbling Charles, played by Hugh Grant.
At the first wedding, Charles meets a beautiful American woman named Carrie, played by Andie McDowell. The pair spend the night together, after which she returns home to America. They are intimate a few other times, even after she becomes engaged to another man. I’ll spare you a full plot synopsis, but when the two get around to discussing their sexual history, Charles reveals that he has had relations with several women. This, however, is nothing to Carrie’s admitted 33 sexual conquests.
The film ends on Charles’s wedding day. Carrie is in attendance and we find she is already separated from her husband. Charles abandons his bride at the altar and asks Carrie, “Do you think…you might agree not to marry me? And do you think not being married to me might maybe be something you could consider doing for the rest of your life?” Carrie responds, “I do.” The film ends in a montage of happy photos, including a shot of Charles, Carrie, and a baby boy.
What the plot of “Four Weddings” implies is that it’s possible to have dozens of sexual liaisons without slowly destroying your ability to have a healthy relationship. Carrie is physically intimate with 33 men over the course of her lifetime (as far as we can tell), but this isn’t portrayed as detrimental to her ability to settle down with the right man.
Unfortunately, reality is grimmer than the movies. The charts at this link—based on a large data sample in the 1995 National Survey of Family Growth—depict a woman’s likelihood to be in a stable marriage five years to ten years after her wedding day. Though Carrie and Charles do not actually marry, the lesson is clear: one’s statistical likelihood of enjoying a stable relationship without committing to sexual purity is hardly as rosy as “Four Weddings” represents it.

The second falsehood is the film’s assertion that cohabitation is the functional equivalent of marriage. If one’s odds of marital stability after a lifetime of promiscuity are bleak, consider that cohabiting relationships last around one year in the United States—even in France, Britain’s neighbor, the average cohabitation lasts only four years.[1]Lastly, Carrie and Charles have a baby. If unmarried cohabitation is not the lifetime of personally defined bliss that they expect it will be, she will likely end up a single mother. This family structure brings with it all sorts of difficulties, but the long and short of them is that children raised in single-mother homes have to grapple with obstacles that children born into intact, married families struggle with less.
What do you think? Do you think Carrie and Charles really live happily ever after, or do they fall in line with the trends above once the cameras quit rolling?


[1] Patrick Heuveline and Jeffrey Timberlake, “The Role of Cohabitation in Family Formation: The United States in Comparative Perspective,” Journal of Marriage and the Family 66, no. 5 (2004): 1223.

Marriage and Fertility Predictability in Austria

Austria, children, Christianity, cohabitation, family, marriage, religion, world population No comments
By Anna Dorminey and Henry Potrykus, Ph.D., Staff

We all like to believe that, as unique individuals, we’re masters of our own destiny and originals in our own right. We may still cling to this privilege in the U.S., but Austrians have officially lost the dispensation, at least with regard to their likelihood to marry and bear children.

Caroline Berghammer of the Vienna Institute of Demography, through analysis of the 2008-2009 Austrian Generations and Gender Survey, charted family life paths and individual likelihood of choosing them, based on personal religiosity, family size growing up, and other factors. (Because Austria’s religious population is mostly Catholic, Berghammer only includes Catholics in her “religious” category.)
This chart lays out the most common “family life paths” in Austria, among the men and women included in the study who were between the ages of 40 and 45. The numbers represent how many children a person has, and the colors indicate a person’s relationship status.
Relaxing a little the age rigidity of these life-paths, she found that the largest proportion of the Austrian population (19.1%) chooses never to have children and to live in one cohabiting relationship after another (she calls this “sequential cohabitation”). The smallest proportion (6%) chooses traditional parenthood—direct marriage, no cohabitation—with three or more children.
Berghammer found that those who attend Mass monthly or weekly are more likely to marry directly, without cohabiting, and to have at least two children. She also found that a person’s odds of cohabiting sequentially (versus his likelihood to follow the most common life path—cohabiting, eventually marrying and having two kids along the way) are halved if they attend religious services.
Those who don’t claim any religion are 87% more likely than Roman Catholics to have children outside of marriage. Additionally, for every sibling a person has, he or she is 29% more likely to choose traditional parenthood and to have three or more children rather than the aforementioned “most common life path.”
Notably, people who consider themselves religious but don’t regularly attend church don’t seem to differ much from those who don’t consider themselves religious.
 

Figures and chart: Caroline Berghammer, “Family life trajectories and religiosity in Austria,” August 2010 draft version- later published in the European Sociological Review (2010).