Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Marriage and Society: Getting to the Heart of the Matter

Marriage and Society: Getting to the Heart of the Matter:

A recent Heritage Foundation forum highlighting the relationship between marriage, family structure, and societal well-being noted positive cultural trends as well as troubling data.

Discussing information presented in the 2014 Index of Culture and Opportunity, panelists cited hopeful data on the abortion rate, which has steadily declined since peaking in the 1980s. In contrast, they cited a number of troubling trends, including a plummeting marriage rate and an upsurge in cohabitation, which has increased 10-fold since 1960.

As Brad Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project, noted in the Index, the retreat from marriage and the rise in single-parent households jeopardizes children by making them more likely to drop out of school, live in poverty, or commit crimes.

In addition, research has shown that the relationships of cohabiting couples tend to be less stable than those of married couples, and are more likely to end. This does not bode well for the children of cohabiting couples who are more likely to suffer from a range of emotional social and behavioral problems and less likely to succeed academically than their peers with married parents.

These negative consequences for the next generation have grave implications for the overall state of society. Chuck Donovan of the Charlotte Lozier Institute identified the root problem of the social disintegration linked to the decline of marriage—an aversion to commitment:

At the end of the day, sexuality is the most important interpersonal commitment we have. We have to look deeply into our moral core and decide what kind of men and women we will be. Are we for permanent values? Are we for keeping our promises? [Do we mean] what we say when we offer someone a hand, or a kiss, or a handshake? If we [do] not, then no wonder there is so much distress, so much lack of confidence, and so much breakdown in the most fundamental relationships in human life. We have started to view each other as instruments and not as people. That is the beginning of all the trouble.
The downward trend in marriage and its implications for society and the next generation reveal an urgent need to reclaim the value of commitment, which has long been the bedrock of our nation’s civil society.



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