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Saturday, March 5, 2011
I alluded to some recent marriage statistics in my last post on the relative health of marriages inside and outside the church. More specifically, I pointed out that for marriages where religion is an important element and joint church attendance is regular (as apposed to those who simply claim some sort of faith), marriages are, in general happier and less prone to divorce. That’s the good news.

Now for the bad news

I’ve been trying to digest the recent marriage report entitled “The State of Our Unions 2010” published by the UVA National Marriage Project.  There’s a lot of very detailed information in the 108 page report, which is largely an examination of marriage trends by education level.

The principle conclusion of the research is that the institution of marriage is encountering a great assault among those whom they define as “moderately educated,” those with a high school education and perhaps some college. In this group, which accounts for 58% of the US population, “rates of non-marital childbearing and divorce are rising, even as marital happiness is falling.” The principle driving factors, they conclude, are “shifts in marriage mores, increases in unemployment, and declines in religious attendance.” In my next few posts I plan to examine some of these factors and discuss the implications. We'll start here:

Marriage-Related Values

A bit of encouraging news is that the report finds the vast majority of people still report marriage as being either “very important” or “one of the most important things.” The difference across educational levels is nearly insignificant (75% for the lease educated, 76% for moderately educated, and 79% for highly educated). This is consistent with the findings of a recent controversial Pew Research study that I reported on back here. Though most headlines from that report mistakenly touted that “marriage is obsolete,” if you dig into the report you find that 67% of those surveyed report that they are optimistic about the future of marriage and family.

So marriage is important to so many and seems to hold such a bright future, but there are two troubling findings we’ll look at:

So we see here that over the course of 30 years a dramatic shift in the acceptance of premarital sex, leading not only to increasing prevalence of premarital sex but in the number of people opting for cohabitation instead of marriage. What is interesting, as the study points out, is that among the highly educated, fewer people are accepting of the idea that pre-marital sex is okay, whereas for the less educated, more are. Despite this fact, however, every group has an increase in cohabitation, though the increase is most pronounce in those with less education.

What is the fruit of this shift in attitudes and behaviors? As the study shows, there is a corresponding increase in rates of divorce and higher degrees of marital dissatisfaction, and as the rest of the study shows, these effects are decidedly more pronounced for those less educated.

While the study does not claim a direct cause-effect relationship between the increase of premarital sex and cohabitation and marriage problems, to me the implications are pretty clear. The lie of the “sexual revolution” is that there is no reason not to enjoy as much sex as you want, with whomever you want. What’s the harm? Who are you hurting? The truth is that you are hurting yourself and your future spouse. Not to mention that whole STD issue.

The other lie is that cohabitation is a valid way to test-drive your partner for marriage. Marriage researchers have shown that shacking up actually results in higher rates of divorce and more single-parent families.

In summary, then, it appears that although many people believe in marriage and have high hopes for themselves in that regard, more and more are behaving in a manner that lessens the likelihood of reaching their aspirations.

What can we do?

As unpopular and difficult as it is, we need to do a better job of resisting the “new normal” and proclaiming the truth in a loving but loud and clear manner that God’s way is the best way, even if you put religion aside. Although it provides no guarantee of future married bliss, it is clear that waiting to sleep together until you are married greatly improves your chances of reaching your dreams.

Do you think I am being unrealistic in this?  Is the increasing trend toward cohabitation and premarital sex inevitable and hence are marriages doomed to further decline?  What are your thoughts?

A while ago Kathleen at Project M posed an interesting proposition:
Solving the Worlds' Problems Through Monogamy


Beth Templeton said...

Just sent this on to our college-age girls hoping it will help them as they talk about these realities with their friends. Really helpful to get the fact right!

Scott said...

Thanks, Beth. The only way to fight the lies of the enemy that are so prevalent is to proclaim the truth. Thanks for passing this on.

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