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Why Marriage Matters

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Maggie Baumann, MA:I've been married for 26 years, raising two children who are now young adults in college. Although my marriage hasn't always been a bed of roses, my husband and I have gone through many life transitions together without losing hope that our marriage wouldn't dissolve -- even through my own struggle with and recovery from an eating disorder.

Bride and groom, wedding

Any type of addiction, eating disorder, infidelity or other dysfunctional mode of coping can cause havoc in your marriage. It takes dedication and healthy communication to keep a marriage alive.

I have friends who are single moms and other friends who are raising kids without the bond of marriage. I often wonder about the impact that these different ways of raising kids have on the couples' partnerships and the children.

I recently came across a study called, "Why Marriage Matters: 26 Conclusions from the Social Sciences."I found the results regarding the impact healthy marriages have on offspring and the couples themselves especially interesting. Although I don't have the space to describe all 26 of the study's conclusions, here are some of the more compelling findings:

Marriage and children:

  • Parental divorce reduces the likelihood that children will graduate from college and achieve high-status jobs.
  • Children who live with their own two married parents enjoy better physical health, on average, than children in other family forms.
  • Parental divorce almost doubles the odds that adult children will end up divorced.

Marriage and men:

  • Married men earn between 10 and 40 percent more than single men with similar education and job histories.
  • Married couples -- especially married men -- have longer life expectancies than otherwise-similar singles.
  • Marriage increases the likelihood that fathers will have good relationships with children. Sixty-five percent of young adults whose parents divorced had poor relationships with fathers, compared with 29 percent from non-divorced families.

Marriage and women:

  • Divorce and unmarried childbearing significantly increases the poverty rates of both mothers and children. Between one fifth and one third of divorcing women end up in poverty as a result of divorce.
  • Married women have lower rates of depression than single and cohabiting mothers.
  • Married women appear to have a lower risk of domestic violence than cohabiting or dating women. Even after controlling for race, age and education, people who live together are still three times more likely to report violent arguments than married people.

Well, we all know that some marriages don't work out for a number of reasons (those within our control and beyond our control). But if you're in a marriage and you can keep it in a healthy balance with your partner, you're providing for the good of your relationship and the healthy development of your children.

Marriage, when two people make the formal commitment, does matter!

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28 comments so far | Post a comment now
chris July 17, 2010, 11:47 AM

I completely agree with this as long as the marriage is happy and healthy. Growing up in a loving home with 2 parents and then losing my dad at 10 made a big impact in my life. Even at 41, I still long for a dad in my life. I’m thankful that I had him for a while and I can’t image the feeling of never having one in my life at all. So far, my marriage has been good (including ups & downs) and my kids are 15 & 10 and I plan to have them get though all of their “at-home” time with both their parents and I hope that our marriage will set a good example for how they should form their future relationships. Of course, as the saying goes: We plan and God laughs but so far so good.

Monica July 17, 2010, 12:34 PM

Liked this one a lot …

azmomof2 July 17, 2010, 4:03 PM

I have been married 8 years and overall it has not been great. There have not been many “ups” and there have been a lot of “downs”. But my kids love both of their parents and are so happy when all of us are together.
I do believe that it is best for kids to be raised with married parents, so I plan to hang in there and make the best of it and hope it gets better.

anonymous July 17, 2010, 5:28 PM

I agree with everything in here except the last point. It could be that cohabiting women are at more risk for violence because if a guy hits you, you don’t marry him. Or maybe violent guys aren’t willing to get married.

michelle July 18, 2010, 2:13 PM

Um, once again, correlation doesn’t equal causation. Marriage by itself probably won’t solve any social problems. I seriously doubt that any of these studies had a clean control group, because of the very strong class dynamics behind marriage rates. Wealthier and more educated people are more likely to get and stay married. If some of these people don’t get married, they and their children probably won’t be any worse off purely because of that. Similarly, low rates of marriage are just a symptom, not a cause, of the social pathologies faced by poorer and less educated people. Encouraging them to marry will not necessarily make them better off — it will just drive up divorce rates since many of those marriages will fail. I think all this focus on marriage is just an excuse to impose traditional values on people while avoiding the fact that we have no decent social safety net left in this country. Just get married — problem solved, right?

Anonymous July 18, 2010, 2:38 PM

Having parents in a healthy,loving and committed marriage is always better for children.

elle July 18, 2010, 8:09 PM

This is an ideal situation. Of course a healthy and happy two parent home is better, but life doesn’t always go as planned. For the families with unpleasant realities, thank God children are resilient.

brook July 21, 2010, 5:25 PM

my husband and i have been married for 5 yrs. and it hasn’t always been good, but i know without a doubt that he loves me and our son. Sometimes i use to think because we got married and pregnant @ age 25 and 26 that maybe it was a mistake and we rushed into it to , but now @ ages 30 and 31 i can see it’s getting better day by day even though we do have disagreements but their not as intense as they use to be, also as we both get older and learn more about what we both want and need from one another, and fulfill those needs, it makes life better and our family too. i also notice the bond between father and son and that just makes me in love with him even more, i am blessed, truly blessed. As black people it is VERY IMPORTANT that we keep our families together in a married loving and healthy environment to make us better people.President Obama and family are PURE examples.

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Wondering September 9, 2010, 6:12 AM

You don’t state what groups the study was comparing. Were they looking at happily married couples vs. divorced couples (presumably unhappily)? I’d think the happily married couples’ children would fare better. Does the study compare children from parents who are happily committed to each other, but unmarried to those whose parents are happily married? Do we really think that a ceremony and piece of paper would change how well those children do?

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