- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 14, 2002

Marriage is more than a private emotional relationship, it's a social good, according to a report to be released today.
The report, "Why Marriage Matters: 21 Conclusions from the Social Sciences," finds that communities where successful marriages are common have better outcomes for children, men and women than those where the divorce rates are high.
Children who live with their two married parents are physically healthier than youngsters living in single-parent homes, and married people, especially men, have longer life expectancies than single people, the report shows.
The bottom line is marriage matters, and sticking through the hard times will make everyone happier and healthier in the end, a group of 13 scholars and social scientists who worked on the report say.
"Asking why marriage matters is like asking why oxygen is good for you," said Steven Nock, a University of Virginia sociology professor who worked on the report. "In my view, we haven't discovered a better way of sustaining adults and children than marriage. Marriage is still one of the most permanent human relationships one can have."
Some scholars say the report should be regarded as "an argument for the benefits of marriage" and as an answer to the question of why it's best to hang in there, instead of leaving the union behind.
The key to a happier and stronger marriage is to manage one another's differences in a way that won't erode or contaminate the love in the relationship, said Diane Sollee, founder and director of the Coalition for Marriage, Family and Couples Education, one of the organizations that helped sponsor the report.
"This report should say to that person who's been married for 14 years and thinks he or she is falling out of love, that there's a reason to hang in there," Miss Sollee said. "Try to work out your differences. If you do, then in the end everyone will be better off."
The report acknowledges that not every person can or should get married, and no one should stay in violent or high-conflict marriages. "Divorce or separation provides an important escape hatch for children and adults," in those types of marriages, the report states.
The report also concludes that every child raised outside marriage is not mentally or emotionally damaged as a result. "While divorce is associated with serious increased psychological risks for children, for example, the majority of children of divorce are not mentally ill," the report states.
But while children of divorced parents may not end up mentally ill, scholars argue in the report that children are still left with some psychological scars that could hinder their social, economic and educational success in the future.
The 27-page report was sponsored by Miss Sollee's coalition, the Institute for American Values in New York and Center of the American Experiment in Minneapolis. The three groups said yesterday they thought it would be appropriate to release the report on Valentine's Day, the most romantic holiday of the year.
Other findings in the report include:
Cohabitation is not the functional equivalent of marriage.
Marriage is associated with reduced rates of alcohol and drug abuse.
Divorce increases the risk of suicide.
Married men earn more money than single men.
Married mothers have lower rates of depression than single or cohabiting mothers.
Married women have a lower risk of domestic violence than single women.
Scholars who contributed to the study agreed that the report won't immediately change the American culture, which they say stopped talking about marriage until recently. But they said they hope it will answer some questions that younger generations, in particular, may have about marriage.
"What we want to show is the dynamics and options of the traditional marriage have changed," said Linda J. Waite, a sociology professor at the University of Chicago. "Marriage is no longer a restrictive one-size-fits-all. You can now have a marriage where the wife works and the husband stays at home. You can have a marriage where both the wife and the husband work. If we make people think differently about marriage, then we've done our job."


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