Wednesday, November 13, 2013

As Traditional Marriage Falters, so Do the Children

Katie Roiphe, professor at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at New York University, writes approvingly about the death of traditional marriage:

  • What would it mean to end the centuries-long American fixation on traditional family structures? Would we be able to look at families living outside of convention without as much judgment, as much toxic condescension?

  • If we woke up one morning and discovered that in America marriage was suddenly regarded as a choice, a way, a possibility, but not a definite and essential phase of life, think how many people would suddenly be living above board, think of the stress removed, the pressures lifted, the stigmas dissolving. Think how many people living unhappily would see their way to living less unhappily.

  • Whatever one thinks about the institution, the truth is that marriage is increasingly not the way Americans are living. If one goes strictly by the facts—that the majority of babies born to women under 30 are born to single mothers, or that about 51 percent of American adults are married—one has to admit that marriage can’t be taken for granted, assumed as a rite of passage, a towering symbol of our way of life. 

Roiphe might be right about these stats, but are they something to celebrate? Should the children born to unwed mothers be pleased that they represent a radical departure from what had long been considered the norm? Not according to the stats! In The Case for Marriage, Linda Waite & Maggie Gallagher assembled these findings:

  • DOMESTIC VIOLENCE: “A large body of research shows that marriage is much less dangerous for women than cohabitors…1987-88 National Survey of Families and Households: married people are much less likely than cohabiting couples to say that arguments between them and their partners had become physical in the past year (4% of married people compared to 13% of the cohabiting).” (155) “Cohabiting women are 8 times as likely as to be unfaithful than married women.” (157)

  • CHILD ABUSE: “A preschooler living with one biological parent and one step-parent was forty times more likely to be sexually abused than one living with two natural parents.” (159).

Interestingly, many talk approvingly of the “wisdom” of cohabitation as a means to test future compatibility. The New Oxford Review also reports that,

  • “One in ten survives five or more years…The divorce rate among those who cohabit prior to marriage is nearly double (39% vs. 21%) that of couples who marry without prior cohabitation.”

  • “Men in cohabiting relationships are four times more likely to be unfaithful…Depression is three times more likely…The poverty rate among children of cohabiting couples is five-fold greater…and 90% more likely to have a low GPA…Abuse of children is 20 times higher in cohabiting biological-parent families; and 33 times higher when the mother is cohabiting with a boyfriend.”

  • “Cohabitation is bad for men, worse for women, and horrible for children. It is a deadly toxin to marriage, family, and culture.”

We have been led to believe that cohabitation provides a greater measure of protection for the spouse and for abused children. It is argued that the mother can more easily remove herself from an abusive situation if there isn’t a legally binding marriage. However, the statistics demonstrate the very opposite thing:

  • Spanish statistics, which have been highlighted in recent years by Europe’s Family Policy Institute (FPI), and recently reported by the Spanish Newspaper ABC, indicate that while only 11% of Spanish couples cohabit without marriage, such unions account for 58% of the most violent crimes between couples. For every one protection order issued for a married couple, ten are issued for cohabiting couples. (

Clearly, marriage is not an institution to be manipulated according to our tastes and desires. According to Jesus, it is a sacred union ordained by God:

  • "Haven't you read," he replied, "that at the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female,' and said, 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh'? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate." (Matthew 19:4-6)


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