I read with interest the media headlines about the new Pew Study on marriage. "4 in 10 Say Marriage is Irrelevant," "We're Just Not that into Marriage," "I Don't, Twenty-Somethings in New York aren't the marrying kind," and "More Americans may Believe Marriage is Obsolete" are just a few of the headlines across the country.
So if you take that at surface value you might think that people really aren't into marriage, but if you dig into the research what you actually find is that Americans are very into marriage - so much so that we are the most marrying, divorcing and re-marrying country in the world.
While perception is reality for people, it doesn't mean their perception is necessarily accurate.
Studies indicate that marriage is declining for those on the lower rungs of the socio-economic ladder, this doesn't mean that those of lower socio-economic means do not desire to marry. They do! (Promises I Can Keep: Why Poor Women Put Motherhood before Marriage by Kathryn Edin and Maria Kefalas)
Interestingly, the Pew study shows that marriage is still the norm for those with a college education.
It might surprise you to know that more than 80 percent of high school seniors consider marriage an important part of their future plans.
Research consistently shows that almost 90 percent of Americans plan to marry at some point in their lives.
A major change noted by the Pew study indicates that people are more willing to consider other types of living arrangements a "family." However, research indicates that there are certain benefits that only marriage provides for people. While one might assume that these benefits would transfer to those who live together or other family forms, the research shows they do not (The Case for Marriage by Linda Waite, University of Chicago and Maggie Gallagher).
There is robust research that shows marriage has a positive impact on health, wellness, finances, community development, economic development, education, men, women and CHILDREN. Children who grow up in married parent households are less likely to suffer abuse, more likely to do well in school, less likely to experience depression or be involved in risky behaviors. These children are also less likely to grow up in poverty. Of families living in poverty only 6 percent are married parent homes with children under the age of 18 compared to single parent homes with children under the age of 18 at more than 40 percent.
So why might people delay marriage or believe it is obsolete? Perhaps it has something do to with relationship skills. People assume if they are in love they can make marriage work. OR, if they have never seen marriage work, they assume they can't make it work either. Hence the increase in living together.
People who assume that love will carry them through often experience a rude awakening when they find out they don't feel so loving towards their mate.
There are lots of couples rushing to the alter after only knowing each other for a few months - while there are exceptions to this rule - it is highly unlikely that you can really know a person in a short amount of time - thus these couples only a few months into their marriage begin wondering if they made a big mistake.
Additionally, people today are entering into marriage with unrealistic expectations such as, if you are my soulmate we should never disagree, and my spouse should be able to meet all my needs.
No great civilization has ever survived without marriage and family.
Marriage does matter to our country.
Perhaps people would think more highly of marriage if they were more successful at it. Maybe we ought to encourage couples to slow down and do those things we know can help them be successful in their marriage over the long haul like - taking at least a year to really get to know one another before they commit to each other and taking a premarital education class to learn the skills to help them have a healthy marriage.