This article indirectly supports
this non-profit Web site's main premise:
that the low-
of average U.S.
homes with minor children is
growing, and promotes the tragic
[wounds + unawareness]
and a major symptom, the U.S. divorce epidemic. The
emphases and links below are mine. - P. K. Gerlach, MSW
+ + +
RENO, Nev. -- The old
schoolyard jingle about marriage -- first comes love, then comes marriage,
then comes baby in a baby carriage -- may need a rewrite.
National Marriage Project's latest report finds a growing disconnect
between children and marriage, with fewer adults holding the view that the
main purpose of marriage is to rear children. Instead, marriage is prized
for meeting emotional and sexual needs of the couple.
This fading notion of marriage as society's chief child-rearing institution
is reflected in a Gallup Poll that found
nearly 70 percent of Americans
disagree with the statement that "the main purpose of marriage is having
children." The percentage is even higher (79 percent) for people ages 20 to
"If there is a story to be told about marriage in recent decades, it is not
that it is withering away for adults, but that it is withering away as a
family experience for children," said Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, who co-wrote
the study with David Popenoe at The National Marriage Project at Rutgers
Today, the number of U.S. children living in families with two married
parents stands at 69 percent, far off the 85 percent of children reared in
such families in 1970 -- contributing to what the report calls a "
" for children.
Children are being "pushed to the
margins of society and, except when they
cause mayhem or are victims of sensational crimes,
to the sidelines of our
social consciousness," Popenoe told The Salt Lake Tribune.
The two researchers shared their findings Saturday in Reno, Nev., at the
Seventh Annual Smart Marriages/Happy Families Conference, which attracted
1,700 people from around the world. The conference is sponsored by the
Washington, D.C.-based Coalition for Marriage, Couples and Family Education.
In hundreds of workshops, participants received tips on how to promote,
support, strengthen and defend marriage as an institution in large measure
to ensure more children grow up in happy, loving families with both parents.
Popenoe and Whitehead said that while there are positive signs lately in
social trends for families -- a dip in the divorce rate, a 1 percent rise in
children in two-parent families and a decrease in teen sex and pregnancy --
it is too soon to celebrate any real "family turnaround."
They point to other measures that may be signaling more difficulties for
marriage and children: The marriage rate continues to decline, more couples
choose to live together rather than marry, and many of those who do marry
are older and either delay having children or opt to have none at all.
And yet, there is an infatuation with marriage in pop culture, reflected in
TV dating reality shows like "The Bachelor," movies such as "My Big, Fat
Greek Wedding" and books that emphasize romantic, soul-mate aspects of
unions creating what the researchers call "the cult of the wedding."
In a view shared by many of his colleagues, family therapist and author
Frank Pittman on Saturday called the idea of a soul mate a cruel joke. "I
can't believe anybody who buys that has been married for longer than 15
minutes," Pittman said during a separate talk on the importance of fathers.
"We have all married the
We are the wrong person. And that is
the starting point."
Yet, 94 percent of twenty-somethings in a recent Gallup Poll said they were
looking for a soul mate.
"Why shouldn't they want a marriage that is 'for me?' " asks Randy Chatelain,
a marriage therapist and associate professor at Weber State University in
Ogden. That, he said, is what consumer culture and its focus on instant
gratification have taught young adults, he said.
But children and their
well-being are left out of these popularized notions
of marriage, even as profound legal, social and cultural changes are at work
to reshape the institution, Whitehead said.
The goal of marriage is, instead, more often seen as a "spiritualized union
of souls" -- which may actually weaken marriage as an institution for
rearing children since qualities of a good lover can vary drastically from
those of a good parent.
"The downside is these marriages are much more fragile and subject to
divorce when you have to meet the exacting, emotional demands of a soul-mate
standard," Whitehead said.
The separation of parenthood from marriage is reflected in the fact that
more than a third of children today are born outside of marriage. "Young
people seem to think of marriage and parenthood as two separate tracks,"
Whitehead said. That is, have a baby and then find your soul mate.
By 2010, the Census Bureau projects families with children will make up only
20 percent of all U.S. households -- down from just under half of all
households in 1960. "It's a tremendous shift," Popenoe said. "It means
adults in the course of their daily lives aren't in contact with children."
Despite its family-oriented culture, Utah parallels that trend. Just 35
percent of the state's households are composed of a married-couple family
with children under age 18, down from 38 percent in 1990, according to the
The findings matter, researchers say, because of
nearly five decades of studies that
show children do better
when they grow up with two biological parents who are in a committed,
-- the goal of the
national marriage movement.
"I am constantly reinforced in my views in my daily life about the
importance of having two parents in a healthy marriage," Popenoe said. "We
certainly should be concerned about it in a society where it is less
possible than ever. It is not a minor thing that we are messing around
© Copyright 2003, The Salt Lake Tribune.
U.S. Marriage Statistics
The 11/7/07 online newsletter of
Life Innovations, Inc., a nonprofit marital enrichment program,
published these statistics. No sources were given...
Of the 2.3 million marriages in 2006, about
half (53%) took place in a religious setting.
The average cost of a wedding is $27,500.
Married households are barely above 50%. Of
the U.S. 111 million households, 52% are now made up of married couples
with and without children.
25th Wedding Anniversary becoming more rare.
There is less than a 50% chance that couples currently married will
reach their 25th anniversary.
U.S. divorce rate continues about 50%. While the average divorce rate is
50%, it is 40% for first marriage, 60% for second marriages and 73% for
The seven year itch continues. Couples
separate on the average seven years after marriage and
Over 90% of people get married once. But
those marrying are waiting until they are older and they are less likely
to remarry following a divorce.
Rate of Cohabitation Escalates. Over 6
million couples now cohabit, a dramatic increase from only 500,000
cohabiting couples in 1970.
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