The Marriage of a man and a woman is a unique form of relationship. Out of all human relationships, sexual or otherwise, only it can provide a child with a mother and a father who have made a formal, public commitment to one another.
Studies demonstrate (see below or Resources page) that children tend to fare best when raised by their biological parents in a low-conflict marriage. There are obviously exceptions, but this is the general rule.
Therefore, from the point of view of children and from the point of view of society, there is a rational, evidence-based reason for encouraging marriage through giving it special support and recognition.
Why Does Marriage Matter? (according to the Relationships Foundation)
Any relationship is a complex phenomenon influenced by many factors including structure, material resources, the external environment and the relational skills and capacities of the participants. Specific policy responses need to be informed by robust understanding of causality of outcomes, as well as the effectiveness and appropriateness of different mechanisms of influence. The next briefing paper in this series explores a more comprehensive approach to family proofing public policy. Here we note the differences between the private choice of cohabitation and the public commitment of marriage, and the significant differences in outcomes that are associated with these different structures.
The Team here at AMF found the following on www.americanvalues.org and thought you might appreciate it in the formation of your own thoughts:
Did you know that a large body of social science research now affirms the importance of marriage for children, adults, and communities?
- Marriage matters because when fathers are committed to their children (and their children’s mother!), children are most likely to thrive and women are spared the unfair burdens of parenting alone.
- Marriage reduces the risk of poverty for children and communities. The majority of children whose parents don’t get or stay married experience at least a year of poverty.
- Fatherless households increase crime. Boys whose parents divorced or never married, for example, are two to three times more likely to end up in jail as adults.
- Marriage protects children’s physical and mental health. Children whose parents get and stay married are healthier and also much less likely to suffer mental illness, including depression and teen suicide.
- Both men and women who marry live longer, healthier and happier lives. On virtually every measure of health and well-being, married people are better-off than otherwise similar singles, on average.
- Just living together is not the same as marriage. Married couples who cohabit first are thirty to fifty percent more likely to divorce. People who just live together do not get the same boost to health, welfare and happiness, on average, as spouses. Neither do their children. Children whose parents cohabit are at increased risk for domestic violence and child abuse and neglect. Children born to parents who were just living together are also three times more likely to experience their parents’ breakup by age 5.
- Parents who don’t get or stay married put children’s education at risk. Children whose parents divorced or never married have lower grade point averages, are more likely to be held back a grade, and to drop out of school. They are also less likely to end up college graduates
- When marriages fail, ties between kids and parents typically weakens too. Adult children whose parents divorced are only half as likely to have warm, close ties to both their mothers and their fathers. For example, in one large national survey, 65 percent of adult children of divorce reported they were not close to their fathers (compared to 29 percent of adults from intact marriages). [Source; W. Bradford Wilcox et al. 2005. Why Marriage Matters: 26 Conclusions from the Social Sciences (NY: Institute for American Values) www.americanvalues.org]