Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

The global shift away from marriage and child-bearing

Nicholas Eberstadt explains what’s happening to marriage and parenting, in this Wall Street Journal article.

I just want to pull out the parts that seem interesting.

Why is it happening?

All around the world today, pre-existing family patterns are being upended by a revolutionary new force: the seemingly unstoppable quest for convenience by adults demanding ever-greater autonomy. We can think of this as another triumph of consumer sovereignty, which has at last brought rational choice and elective affinities into a bastion heretofore governed by traditions and duties—many of them onerous. Thanks to this revolution, it is perhaps easier than ever before to free oneself from the burdens that would otherwise be imposed by spouses, children, relatives or significant others with whom one shares a hearth.

People are rejecting responsibilities, expectations, and obligations because they are selfish.

When he talks about Europe, he offers an explanation for this:

Now consider Europe, where the revolution in the family has gained still more ground. European demographers even have an elegant name for the phenomenon: They call it the Second Demographic Transition (the First being the shift from high birth rates and death rates to low ones that began in Europe in the early industrial era and by now encompasses almost every society). In the schema of the Second Demographic Transition, long, stable marriages are out, and divorce or separation are in, along with serial cohabitation and increasingly contingent liaisons. Not surprisingly, this new environment of perennially conditional, no-fault unions was also seen as ushering in an era of more or less permanent sub-replacement fertility.

According to Eurostat, the European Union’s statistical agency, the probability of marriage before age 50 has been plummeting for European women and men, while the chance of divorce for those who do marry has been soaring. In Belgium—the birth-land of the scholars who initially detected this Second Transition—the likelihood of a first marriage for a woman of reproductive age is now down to 40%, and the likelihood of divorce is over 50%. This means that in Belgium the odds of getting married and staying married are under one in five. A number of other European countries have similar or even lower odds.

Europe has also seen a surge in “child-free” adults—voluntary childlessness. The proportion of childless 40-something women is one in five for Sweden and Switzerland, and one in four for Italy. In Berlin and in the German city-state of Hamburg, it’s nearly one in three, and rising swiftly. Europe’s most rapidly growing family type is the one-person household: the home not only child-free, but partner- and relative-free as well. In Western Europe, nearly one home in three (32%) is already a one-person unit, while in autonomy-prizing Denmark the number exceeds 45%. The rise of the one-person home coincides with population aging. But it is not primarily driven by the graying of European society, at least thus far: Over twice as many Danes under 65 are living alone as those over 65.

“Perenially conditional, no-fault unions”. That means that either party can leave at any time, for any reason.

Who is hurt most when marital stability declines?

Kids:

Our world-wide flight from family constitutes a significant international victory for self-actualization over self-sacrifice, and might even be said to mark a new chapter in humanity’s conscious pursuit of happiness. But these voluntary changes also have unintended consequences. The deleterious impact on the hardly inconsequential numbers of children disadvantaged by the flight from the family is already plain enough. So too the damaging role of divorce and out-of-wedlock childbearing in exacerbating income disparities and wealth gaps—for society as a whole, but especially for children. Yes, children are resilient and all that. But the flight from family most assuredly comes at the expense of the vulnerable young.

And the elderly:

That same flight also has unforgiving implications for the vulnerable old. With America’s baby boomers reaching retirement, and a world-wide “gray wave” around the corner, we are about to learn the meaning of those implications firsthand.

In the decades ahead, ever more care and support for seniors will be required, especially for the growing contingent among the elderly who will be victims of dementia, or are childless and socially isolated. Remember, a longevity revolution is also under way. Yet by some cruel cosmic irony, family structures and family members will be less capable, and perhaps also less willing, to provide that care and support than ever before.

I did a quick search for pro-marriage policies and came across an article from USA Today. The author wanted to bash a legislator’s pro-marriage ideas, and to do that she found a single mother to quote who disagrees with pro-marriage policies.

Look:

Indianapolis mother Amanda Louden, 46, has seen parenthood from both married and unmarried standpoints.

She had three sons with her former husband, deciding to marry to be traditional about it and for the convenience of everyone having the same last name. Louden later divorced her husband and had another son with her then-boyfriend.

And she says she doesn’t think marriage made that much of a difference in raising her children.

“It’s really an oversimplification to say that single parenting is bad,” Louden said. “Intact families where both parents are involved in their children’s lives, that’s good. I’m in favor of that. But let’s not demonize families that don’t have that. It’s demonizing people who are doing whatever they can.”

The father of her youngest son didn’t seem ready or interested in a live-in family role, she said. He became less involved and eventually stopped visiting.

Louden is now raising four sons on her own as a single mother. She disagrees that children with married parents are somehow automatically “better” than hers.

If we are serious about marriage, we are going to have to change attitudes like that. We have to get used to responding to people who say that marriage doesn’t matter with real, peer-reviewed evidence. Broken families arise when people think that there are no best practices that should affect their decision making beyond “follow your heart”. Following your heart get no disapproval at all from the culture. Young people often don’t have friends who will challenge them when they are about to make a bad decision. Young people will often seek out peers who agree with them, and avoid parents and other responsible adults who disagree. Peer-approval – that’s how disasters happen. The only way to stop people from messing up their lives is to tell them before they mess up their lives – and that means breaking through “follow your heart” as gently and effectively as possible.

One reason why so many marriages break up is recreational premarital sex.

CNS News explains:

The seeds of this sexual maturity are sown in early childhood, when a child’s married parents model faithful love of each other, guide him or her through modesty to a criteria of selecting a spouse and courting the right young man or woman, eventually leading to marriage and a family of their own. Without this guidance—without married parents who have modeled a healthy, monogamous relationship since the child’s birth—children generally get lost in pre-marital sex, leading to multiple sexual partners before marriage, in turn leading most into cohabitation and later divorce or permanent single parenthood. The culture has lost its sense of sexual morality.

[…][M]ost people do want marriage for themselves and for society; unfortunately, most have severed the connection between premarital chastity and later marriage stability, not knowing that the more sexual partners before marriage the greater the likelihood of divorce.  Ninety-five percent of those whose only sexual partner ever is their spouse are still in their first marriage after five years. This figure drops to 62 percent for women who had one sexual partner other than their husband (before they married), and drops down further to 50 percent for those who had two such sexual partners before marrying their husband.

Therefore, if the nation wants stable marriage, we first must reinvest in shepherding youth to be chaste.  This has become more and more difficult for parents as the sexual principles of radical feminism and sexual autonomy pervades our courts, schools, colleges and media, and sadly, even to some extent in our churches.

Yes, in our churches.

But there’s more to restoring marriage than just confrontation at the one-on-one level. From a policy point of view, we should be voting for policies that promote marriage and child-bearing within marriage. I think we should be giving rewards to married couples who stay together and have children, not to people who want to try any other crazy arrangement that isn’t as good for kids. Not every association of people is as stable and healthy as marriage, and the government shouldn’t be treating these alternatives as we treat the real thing.

You can look over a list of pro-marriage policy ideas here.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , ,

Differences between moving in together / living together and getting married?

Marriage and family

Marriage and family

Dad sent me this article from the Daily Signal. Let’s look at it, then I’ll give my opinion on this research.

Five points:

  1. Cohabiting couples are more prone to break up (and break up for good) than married couples
  2. Even after marrying, women who cohabitated prior to marriage are more apt to separate or divorce than those who did not.
  3. Men who cohabit tend to make less money than their married counterparts
  4. Among young mothers, married women are more financially secure than cohabiting women
  5. Cohabiting couples report more depression and more alcohol problems than married couples

The key points for me:

1. Cohabiting couples are more prone to break up (and break up for good) than married couples.  In the May 2003 issue of the Journal of Marriage and Family Study, Georgina Binstock and Arland Thornton found that, in the first year of living together, couples who cohabited were eight times more likely to end their relationships than those who were married.  In the second and third years, those rates decreased to four and three times more likely, respectively.  And when it comes to getting back together after a breakup, cohabiting couples were about a third less likely to get back together again.

2. Even after marrying, women who cohabitated prior to marriage are more apt to separate or divorce than those who did not.  One study demonstrated that for women who lived with their partners before marriage, it was 33 percent more likely for their marriages to result in separation or divorce.

5. Cohabiting couples report more depression and more alcohol problems than married couples.  Even when controlling for race, age and gender, cohabiting individuals reported higher levels of depression than married ones, 2.8 points according to one study.  In another study, cohabiting individuals were three times more likely to report having problems with alcohol consumption than those who were married, as well as 25 percent more problems than single people who did not cohabit.  Cohabiting women indicated more alcohol problems than married women—and men who cohabited said they had more alcohol problems than both married and single men.

This article from the UK Daily Mail that Dina sent me says that 9 in 10 children being born now will see their parents split by the time the children reach 16.

It says:

Nearly nine out of ten babies born to co-habiting parents this year will have seen their family break up by the time they reach the age of 16, says a study.

Half of all children born this year will not be living with both natural parents when they reach their mid-teens, and almost all those who suffer family breakdown will be the children of unmarried parents, added the report.

The study, based on figures from the national census and large-scale academic surveys, extrapolates from current trends and calculates that just 9 per cent of babies born to cohabiting couples today will still have their parents living together by the time they are 16.

The report adds that the declining popularity of marriage and the rise of co-habitation will damage the lives of increasing numbers of children.

The figures were produced by researcher Harry Benson, of the Marriage Foundation think tank, who said: ‘The report provides solid evidence that married parents are more stable than unmarried parents.

[…]The study by the think  tank, which is headed by High Court family division judge Sir Paul Coleridge, was based  on findings from the census of 2001 and recent results from Understanding Society, a government-backed survey which charts the lives of people in 40,000 homes.

The report said that in 2001, four out of ten teenagers aged 15 were not living with both parents, and among the parents of 15-year-olds who stayed together, 97 per cent were married.

The article is from 2013, but I don’t see why things would have gotten any better. We are even more supportive as a society now of adult selfishness and less inclined to take care in our courting so that children are not deprived of fathers and/or mothers through our poor decision making.

So I’ve had experiences mentoring two women who started off as Christian, fell away from Christianity, then returned to the faith. Both of them spend time cohabitating with atheist men. So when I read numbers like the ones above, I want to warn Christian parents. You should not assume that your daughter will always be a Christian when you are raising them. You have to talk to them about these issues and share these numbers with them. Although you can start by telling them what the Bible says, you have to go on from there to explain what a romantic relationship looks like between Christians, and what happens to people who reject the Bible and start having premarital sex.

I am writing this as a virgin who had no trouble with the Bible. I take the rules on sexuality seriously. I am saving my first kiss on the lips for my engagement. But the reason why this is so easy for me, and so hard for others is because I am being bounded by evidence. I am not making decisions while drunk. I am not embracing a cultural view of what a good romantic partner is. I am not getting my moral rules and boundaries from my peers or from the culture. There is a lot more to building your defenses than just quoting the Bible. Lots of people quote the Bible, but they still end up raising fatherless children or having abortions. Parents, take the time to teach them the evidence.

Filed under: Commentary, , , , , , , , , ,

How much do we pay as a society for removing the rules around love and marriage?

Dina sent me this UK Daily Mail article.

It says:

The cost of family breakdown to the country has shot up by more than £10 billion a year since 2009, a study found yesterday.

It put the price to taxpayers in 2015 of clearing up the damage after families fail and looking after the separated adults and children at £47.31 billion.

The bill takes in the cost of benefits, health and social care, housing, policing and the courts, and the price of failure in the education system of children hurt by divorce or the parting of their parents.

The Relationships Foundation think tank said that the money spent because of family breakdown amounts to three per cent of the economic product of the country and each taxpayer will have to contribute £1,546.

The bill has risen from £37.03 billion since the costs were first calculated in 2009. Over the past year alone, despite falling costs for policing, vandalism and disciplinary problems in schools attributable to family breakdown, the cost has risen by £1.55 billion.

Now the further along we go into the sexual revolution, the more the rules slip off and the more the costs go up. But don’t try to tell any secular leftists that marriage is necessary to keep government small and tax bills low – they are so committed to “anything goes” moral relativism when it comes to sex that no restrictions of any kind are acceptable to them.

Let’s see some more numbers from the United States.

Divorce and out-of-wedlock childbearing cost U.S. taxpayers more than $112 billion a year, according to a study commissioned by four groups advocating more government action to bolster marriages.

Sponsors say the study is the first of its kind and hope it will prompt lawmakers to invest more money in programs aimed at strengthening marriages. Two experts not connected to the study said such programs are of dubious merit and suggested that other investments — notably job creation — would be more effective in aiding all types of needy families.

There have been previous attempts to calculate the cost of divorce in America. But the sponsors of the new study, being released Tuesday, said theirs is the first to gauge the broader cost of “family fragmentation” — both divorce and unwed childbearing.

The study was conducted by Georgia State University economist Ben Scafidi. His work was sponsored by four groups who consider themselves part of a nationwide “marriage movement” — the New York-based Institute for American Values, the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy, Families Northwest of Redmond, Wash., and the Georgia Family Council, an ally of the conservative ministry Focus on the Family.

[…]Scafidi’s calculations were based on the assumption that households headed by a single female have relatively high poverty rates, leading to higher spending on welfare, health care, criminal justice and education for those raised in the disadvantaged homes. The $112 billion estimate includes the cost of federal, state and local government programs, and lost tax revenue at all levels of government.

Now I blog a lot about the kinds of behaviors that cause marriages to break down – all of which are pushed by radical feminists. We have the sexual revolution, recreational premarital sex, no fault divorce, single mother welfare, and so on – all of these things make it easier for people to break up and harder for them to see relationships as self-sacrificial and permanent. Opening the door to gay marriage is just another redefinition that will remove marital norms like permanence and exclusivity. The more unstable marriage is, the more it creates expensive litigation. The more children grow up without fathers and/or mothers, the more we have to pay in social programs.

Love is a serious business.

Filed under: News, , , , ,

New study: 50 percent of divorced people wish they had never ended their marriage

The study was reported in the UK Daily Mail.

Excerpt:

The decision to divorce is always going to be difficult, and for many there can be good reason to end a marriage.

Yet, 50 per cent of divorcees have regrets about their break-up, a study revealed. Researchers found that after the dust settled, 54 per cent experienced second thoughts about whether they had made the right decision, with many realising they miss or still love their ex-partner.

For some, the regrets have been so severe that 42 per cent have had moments where they considered giving their relationship another go, with a large percentage actually making the effort to try again and 21 per cent of those still together now.

[…]A spokesman for the survey, who asked 2,000 UK men and women that have either divorced or called time on a long-term relationship of more than five years, says: ‘Getting divorced is a huge step for any relationship, and sometimes, the words ‘I want a divorce’ can be said in the heat of an argument.

But once you calm down and really think about things, many realise it’s the last thing they want, but by then, you can feel it’s too late to take it back.

And even if you don’t regret it immediately, dealing with the aftermath of a break-up can lead to more second thoughts. But it’s great to see some have managed to talk about their regrets and give things another go.’

The study found one in five said the regrets started straight away, with another 19 per cent having second thoughts within a week of saying the D-word.

TOP TEN REASONS FOR REGRETTING A DIVORCE

  1. Missing an ex-partner 
  2. Feeling like a failure 
  3. Still being in love with an ex-partner
  4. Realising they were being unreasonable
  5. Feeling lonely
  6. Discovering the grass isn’t always greener
  7. An ex-partner finding someone new
  8. Realising they are not better off on their own
  9. Damaging the relationship with their children
  10. Children’s lives being affected  

But for some, it took longer with more than one in ten admitting it took a year or more for them to wish they hadn’t left their partner.

Others admitted they wished they could take things back when the divorce officially came through. Especially when they have worked to divide their assets or started telling people they were calling it quits.

This study fits together well with another study that I blogged about before.

The article is by Mona Charen, and the study is by the Institute for American Values. It’s an older article, but I was reading a book that mentioned the study, so I thought I would blog on it.

Excerpt:

Now, the Institute for American Values (www.americanvalues.org) has released a new study with some intriguing data about the effects of divorce on the unhappy couples themselves. It seems that another great myth is about to tumble – the myth that at least divorce makes unhappily married adults happier.

According to the survey, conducted by a team of family researchers, unhappily married adults who divorced were no happier five years after the divorce than were equally unhappy couples who remained together. And two-thirds of unhappily married people who remained married reported marriages that were happy five years later. Even among those who had rated their marriages as “very unhappy,” nearly 80 percent said they were happily married five years later. These were not bored or dissatisfied whiners. They had endured serious problems, including alcoholism, infidelity, verbal abuse, emotional neglect, depression, illness, and work and money troubles.

Even more surprising, unhappy spouses who divorced actually showed slightly more depressive symptoms five years later than those who didn’t. (They did, however, report more personal growth.) And – make of this what you will – the divorced sample reported a good deal more alcohol consumption than the married group.

[…]The data show that if a couple is unhappy, the chances of their being happily married five years hence are 64 percent if they stay together but only 19 percent if they divorce and remarry. (The authors acknowledge that five years is a relatively short period and many divorced people will eventually remarry, some happily.)

How did the unhappy couples turn their lives around? The study found three principal techniques. The first was endurance. Many couples do not so much solve their problems as transcend them. By taking one day at a time and pushing through their difficulties, many couples found that time itself often improved matters. Moreover, these couples maintained a negative view of the effects of divorce. “The grass is always greener,” explained one husband, “but it’s Astroturf.”

Others were more aggressive. Those the researchers labeled the “marital work ethic” types tackled their problems by arranging for more private time with one another, seeking counseling (from clergy or professionals), receiving help from in-laws or other relatives, or in some cases, threatening divorce or consulting a divorce lawyer.

In the third category were the “personal happiness seekers” who found other ways to improve their overall contentment even if they could not markedly improve their marital happiness.

Certainly the survey found some marriages that were impossible to save and some divorced couples who were happier than those who had remained married. That is as one would expect.

But the most telling aspect of this research is the light it sheds on the importance of the attitude toward marriage. Those who enter marriage with a dim (some might say accurate) view of divorce and a strong religious or other motivation for avoiding it are not only less likely to divorce; they are also less likely to be unhappy. That is the arresting news here. We’ve known that commitment was good for the children of such marriages. We’ve known that commitment was good for society. But until now, it was not clear that commitment actually made married couples themselves more likely to be happy.

I think the last point is a good point. Right now, a lot of young people are choosing mates based on superficial criteria (looks, money, popularity). The purpose of marriage is, in their opinion, to be happy. And their spouse’s job is to make them happy. That’s their view of marriage. But this ignores the realities of what marriage is about. Marriage is not a contract, it’s a covenant. People who marry ought to be getting into it because they want the responsibility of loving another sinner in close quarters. It’s not about feelings and life enhancement. The most important thing to look for in a spouse is their ability to love self-sacrificially and to make and sustain long-term commitments. Both of these capabilities are damaged the more a person goes through painful serial break-ups, because people become unable to trust and instead withhold love and commitment for their own safety.

Filed under: News, , ,

34-year-old career feminist buys herself an engagement ring

Feminist career-girl traveler says: follow your bliss

Feminist career-girl world traveler: follow your bliss

This is from Marie Claire, a woman’s magazine. (H/T Dalrock)

Excerpt:

“I bought myself an engagement ring in Tanzania,” I emailed a group of my girlfriends, mainly for effect.

[…][My friends] particularly love to gossip about me, the last single woman standing in our group of college friends, the only one who didn’t get married last year.

[…]I’ve been the managing editor of Yahoo Travel since April, which is about how long I’ve been single. I love the idea of marriage. I love it so much that when I finally do it I want it to last forever. My ex-boyfriend was my best friend, but he wasn’t my husband.

[…]Now I am single and 34. I have my dream job, one that has allowed me to travel to 12 countries in the past nine months, telling stories all over the globe. It’s such a dream that some days I don’t even think it’s real. I’m convinced that I will wake up one morning and Richard Dawson will pop out of my closet to tell me this isn’t my life at all. Rather, I’ve been on a Japanese reality show for the better part of a year and now is the bit where I’m locked in a house with nudists.

Earlier this year I published an amazing nonfiction book about nuns called If Nuns Ruled the World, and in May I have a new novel coming out.

Like I said, it all seems like a dream. And yet, my friends are very concerned I will end up a spinster, and that has left a large black mark on my otherwise remarkable existence.

[…]I’m actually a hopeless romantic… somehow I still believe in the serendipity of locking eyes with someone across a crowded airport, bumping into him in the Acropolis, or being forced to share a cab in Mumbai. I actually have no doubt that I will meet my husband somewhere on my travels.

She buys the ring, and then seeks attention:

I immediately texted my ex-boyfriend. We talk every day. Like I said: best friend, but not my husband.

“I bought a fancy ring in Tanzania.”

[…]It’s a commitment to myself and a reminder that I’m not wrong, or crazy, or flawed to wait for the right person. I saw the sun rise over Mount Kilimanjaro this morning while writing this, looking at my ring sparkle as my fingers flew across the keyboard. I’m happy to just be with me for a little bit longer.

Four points:

First thing, the fact that she bought an expensive ring from a gift shop in Africa ($$$) on the spur of the moment makes me question whether she has the temperament for marriage. A woman who wants to get married has to able to delay gratification and be a good steward of family resources. Husbands prefer women who are not in debt and not wasteful. It’s an important way that a woman shows a man respect for studying hard things, building a good resume and saving his money before the marriage.

Second thing, many women like this one want to get married “some day”. Even many Christian women. It’s very important to understand that women who say they love the idea of marriage often do not love marriage as God designed it. Marriage is designed so that a woman will support her husband and care for her children. Men and children are not accessories that are acquired in order make women happy, or to make her friends envious. Marriage as designed respects the leadership-oriented nature of a man and the needs of young children. A woman who wants marriage must be prepared to accept responsibilities, obligations and expectations in the marriage.

Third thing, she texted the ex-boyfriend and asked for his approval of her impulse buy. The ex-boyfriend affirmed her by saying “Great!” – he wasn’t going to tell her the truth. Women today often pick boyfriends like this who will have sex with them before marriage because she can suppress his instinct to lead on moral / spiritual issues by giving him sex. Women like men who listen and affirm them, but they are fearful of responsible men who tell them right from wrong, truth from error. That’s why women today freely choose to give men premarital sex – to get the attention and acceptance of a man without having to care what a man thinks is morally right or true. Many men today would rather take the sex than tell a woman what is right and what is true – even to save her from disasters of her own making. A chaste Christian man who wants to make the marriage serve God by leading his wife and children is rejected immediately because he cannot be controlled with sex. Women have feelings that any restrictions on their pursuit of happiness is “controlling”. And often they don’t look to the leadership of a competent man as a positive thing, no matter how badly their own reliance on emotions, intuitions and peer-approval has failed them in the past. And of course should this immoral, deceptive man she freely chose disappoint her by being immoral and deceptive, then it’s the man’s fault. She is the innocent victim.

Fourth thing, when a woman says that she has a high view of marriage then delays it into her mid-thirties, don’t believe her. Marriage is about the joy and challenges of bonding to someone to accomplish shared goals. It is an enterprise all on its own. With marriage, you can do things as a couple that you could never do as singles. You can model marriage to others. You can have and raise children who will know God. You can work together as partners to achieve bigger things for God. Never believe a woman who says she values marriage who then puts it off for a career. I can understand a woman saying she wants to put off marriage by serving God in some way, but not for a career.

I can’t recommend that anyone marry this woman, because the risk of divorce is too high. A woman has to be able to be sensitive to the needs of those around her. She has to be accustomed to picking a good man who will lead the family, and to respect his leadership because he is the provider. People who reject the design for marriage are not ready for marriage, no matter how much they claim to be romantic and to love marriage. Seventy percent of divorces are initiated by women, most often for general unhappiness. Men – make sure you pick a woman who are focused on marriage as it really is, and not on her own happiness.

Filed under: Commentary, , , , , , , , , , ,

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