John Paul II Consortium on
Marriage and the Family, 1999
Marriage and Family Fact
- Marriage socializes men. Once married, men
earn more, work more, and attend church more often. They also
frequent bars/taverns less (Nock 1998).
- Couples who value marriage and disapprove
of divorce are less likely to get divorced (Bumpass and Sweet 1995)
and they are more likely to invest themselves in their marriages
(Amato and Rogers 1999).
- A survey of 18,000 adults in 17
industrialized nations found that married persons have a
significantly higher level of happiness than unmarried adults, even
after controlling for health and financial status, which are also
linked to marriage (Stack and Eshleman 1998).
- Akerlof (1996) ties the decline of
marriage�including "shotgun marriage"�among working and lower class
men to the rise in crime, drug use, and underemployment among teens
and 20something men since the 1960s. He also makes the point that
these trends have a multiplier effect, such that increases in the
percentage of unmarried young men tend to lead to greater peer
acceptance of not marrying/hooliganism, which only accelerates the
downward cycle of social pathology in many urban and rural
environments dominated by under-socialized unmarried young men. In
making this argument, he makes a fairly powerful case that Charles
Murray's welfare argument and William J. Wilson's jobs argument do
not do a very good job in accounting for the rise in illegitimacy.
The decline of shotgun marriage, as well as the cultural shift in
sexual norms occasioned�in part�by the rise of contraception and
abortion in the late 1960s, however, does a much better job
accounting for the rise in illegitimacy.
Cohabitation and Premarital
- Individuals who cohabit before they marry
face a significantly higher chance of getting divorced. Estimates
of this divorce risk range from 33% (Cherlin 1992) to 48% (Bumpass
and Sweet 1995).
- "Cohabiting couples are less satisfied than
married spouses with their partnerships, are not as close to their
parents, are less committed to each other, and, if they eventually
marry, have higher chances of divorce" (Nock 1998: 4).
- About half of the population under age 40
has lived with an unmarried partner, with the highest rates of
cohabitation found among the least educated Americans (Bumpass and
- Teenage girls tend to seek relationship
commitment and teenage boys tend to be more interested in sexual
conquest. For instance, one study of teenagers found that 8 percent
of girls wanted sexual intercourse when they were "going steady,"
but 45 percent of boys wanted sex at this stage of intimacy. Thus,
teenage sexual activity tends to favor the interests of boys but
not girls (Maccoby 1998).
The Importance of the
- Boys raised outside of an intact nuclear
family are more than twice as likely as other boys to end up in
prison, even controlling for a range of social and economic factors
(Harper and McLanahan 1998).
- Children raised in a single-parent family
are twice as likely to drop out of high school, and girls raised in
such a family are more than twice as likely to have a child
out-of-wedlock as a teenager compared to children who grow up with
their biological parents (McLanahan and Sandefur
- Children who grew up in a single parent
home are twice as likely to get divorced than children who grew up
in a two-parent biological family (Bumpass and Sweet
- "[Young] people from single-parent families
or step-families were 2 to 3 times more likely to have had
emotional or behavioral problems than those who had both of their
biological parents present in the home." (Zill and Schoenborn 1990:
- "Children who grow up in a household with
only one biological parent are worse off, on average, than children
who grow up in a household with both of their biological parents,
regardless of the parents� race or educational background,
regardless of whether the parents are married when the child is
born, and regardless of whether the resident parent remarries."
(McLanahan and Sandefur 1994: p. 1, emphasis added).
- "If we were asked to design a system for
making sure that children�s basic needs were met, we would probably
come up with something quite similar to the two-parent ideal. Such
a design, in theory, would not only ensure that children had access
to the time and money of two adults, it also would provide a system
of checks and balances that promoted quality parenting. The fact
that both parents have a biological connection to the child would
increase the likelihood that the parents would identify with the
child and be willing to sacrifice for that child, and it would
reduce the likelihood that either parent would abuse the child."
(McLanahan and Sandefur 1994: p. 38)
- The chances of a daughter being sexually
abused by her stepfather are at least 7 times greater than by her
biological father (Popenoe 1996).
- "[P]reschoolers in Hamilton [Ontario]
living with one natural parent and one stepparent in 1993 were 40
times as likely to become child abuse statistics as like-aged
children living with two natural parents" (Wilson and Daly 1987: p.
- More than half of the children born in 1994
will spend some or all of their childhood in a single-parent home
- Approximately half of all first marriages
will end in divorce (Census Bureau 1992).
- More than two-thirds of all parental
divorces do not involve highly conflicted marriages. In other
words, two-thirds of divorces do not happen because of spousal
physical abuse and/or serious conflict; rather, they happen because
spouses grow apart. "Unfortunately, these are the very divorces
that most likely to be stressful for children." (Amato and Booth
1997: p. 220) The reason? Children value the love, support, and
attention they receive from their parents even if their parents�
marriage isn�t particularly warm.
Gender Roles and Parents at
- Contrary to the expectations of feminists
and family scholars, couples where men are more likely to share
household tasks with their wives are also significantly more likely
to get divorced (Bumpass and Sweet 1995).
- Couples where men earn the lion�s share of
the family income�i.e., more than 50% of couple income�are
significantly less likely to get divorced (Bumpass and Sweet
- Children who have mothers who stay at home
are more likely to be religious�pray, attend church, and the
like�than children whose mothers work outside the home. "The
results demonstrate that the fewer the weekly hours worked by the
mother and the more weekly hours worked by the father, the higher
the religiosity among adult offspring" (Myers 1996: 864). Moreover,
the "religiosity of the offspring is higher if the father is the
main decision-maker in the family" (Myers 1996: 864).
- Teenagers who come home to an empty
home�i.e., latchkey children�are more likely to experience
emotional distress and drug/alcohol abuse (Resnick et al.
- Couples with traditional gender role
practices are significantly more likely to have children. In fact,
each percentage decrease in wife�s income contribution increases
the odds of childbirth by 3% (Myers 1997).
- Fertility is linked to a declining risk of
divorce. In fact, each child a couple has reduces their risk of
divorce by 20 percent (Kaplan, Lancaster, and Anderson
- Couples who say good-bye to their youngest
child at an early age are significantly more likely to divorce than
other couples. The 20-year marriage is more vulnerable to the
disruptive effects of the empty nest syndrome than the 30-year
marriage (Hiedemann, Suhomlinova, and O�Rand 1998).
- The increased availability of abortion and
contraception in the late 60s and early 70s constituted a
"technology shock" that "immiserated" women who sought to avoid
premarital sex, according to Akerlof et al (1996). This article
points to the dramatic increase in illegitimacy and premarital sex
in this period, as well as the marked decline in shotgun marriages,
and asks why it happened at this particular historical period.
Akerlof et al. point out that the best social evidence suggests
that Charles Murray's welfare thesis and William Julius Wilson's
jobs argument do not explain a great deal of this rise. They argue
that the increased availability of contraception and abortion meant
that women could no longer hold the threat of pregnancy over their
male partners, either to avoid sex or to elicit a promise of
marriage in the event that pregnancy resulted from sexual
intercourse. Accordingly, more and more women gave in to their
boyfriends' entreaties for sex. This left traditional women who
wanted to avoid abortion/contraception/sex "immiserated" because
they could not compete with women who had no serious objection to
premarital sex. Thus, more of these women ended up having sex and
having children out of wedlock. Accordingly, this
contraceptive/abortive revolution encouraged both an increase in
abortions and illegitimacy. Moreover, "the norm of the premarital
sexual abstinence all but vanished in the wake of the technology
shock." (Akerlof et al. 1996)
- Couples who attend church weekly are 82%
less likely to divorce than couples who do not attend at all
(Bumpass and Sweet 1995).
- From 1982 to 1988, the percentage of white
female adolescent virgins fell from 51 to 42 percent. But the
virginity rate among white female adolescents in conservative
Protestant churches rose from 45 to 61 percent. (Brewster et al.
- Single women under the age of 35 who never
attend church are almost twice as likely to cohabit as those who
attend church (Protestant or Catholic) on a weekly basis (Bumpass
and Sweet 1995).
- Single women under the age of 35 who
indicate a Catholic affiliation cohabit at greater rates than other
Christians (Bumpass and Sweet 1995).
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George A. Akerlof, Janet L. Yellen, and
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