Marriage Matters

May 1st, 2011
by George S. Crimmin

[private] v9-5-georgeI believe that marriage matters, though, it certainly is not for everyone, but a recent Pew Research Center study on the subject, really caught my attention and propelled me to address the matter sooner rather than later. The study has unveiled a shocking statistic: for instance, in 1960 75% of Americans were married, that figure today is a little less than 50%. The decline in the popularity of marriage is not necessarily news, but putting a solid number on the decline may help explain the severe negative sociological effects on the children of these failed and declining unions. Specifically, over 40% of births are now occurring out of wedlock, compared with just 5% in 1960. The social stigma of illegitimacy has faded greatly over time with the changing moral standards, especially those of the generation “Now.” The sharp decline in wedlock in my view can only spell trouble.

The Pew study is just the latest of numerous studies chronicling the negative impacts of declining and failing marriage rates. According to the Pew Research study released in December 2010, the facts are crystal clear: on average, children born to single parents and growing up in single – parent households tend to do less well academically, they are at greater risk of dropping out of school, at greater risk of sexual abuse, and at greater risk of having children at a young age themselves and thus perpetuating a cycle of poverty and dependence.

In our corner of the globe, the risks may be even greater. Children born under similar circumstances and conditions here, may avoid school altogether. I recall some years ago standing in a long line at a local registry and hearing individual after individual admit to not only being unable to read or write, but not having attended school at all. Add to this the fact that some did not know their date of birth, not even the year.

This is very serious, and while I have reasons to be sympathetic it’s hard to downplay the facts. I myself was born out of wedlock, meaning I have experienced the stigma of illegitimacy all my life, so I have a fairly good idea of what I’m talking about. I never even met my biological father; however, this did not deter me from dreaming and striving to fulfill my dreams. In my particular case, I have always embraced the opportunity to bite off more than I can chew and then chew it. I also had the love, support and encouragement of the world’s greatest grand-mother.

Individual experiences can vary tremendously, and perhaps many of us can point to examples of single-parent households where the children turned out remarkably well – maybe even better than some two – parent households where widespread abuse was prevalent resulting in broken or shattered dreams.

Still, the weight of the data cannot be ignored. The strong correlation between single-parent households and lower socioeconomic status is more than a correlation: it is a cycle of causation that begins with single-parent status. Children generally do better in two-parent households compared with single- parent ones. While the Pew study may not draw a moral lesson for the general public, but, nonetheless, it is a lesson that I believe needs to be drawn. Our culture today too often derides and discounts the value of a social institution that has served societies well for countless generations. Being born and raised by a single parent however, should never be an alibi or justification for failure, nor should it be used as an excuse for not trying. [/private]

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