Myths of Marriage Quiz - Horn
cmfce at his.com
Tue Oct 17 12:12:35 EDT 2000
subject: Myths of Marriage Quiz - Horn
from: Smart Marriages
Fatherly Advice Dr. Wade F. Horn President, The National Fatherhood
Title: New Book Outlines Benefits of Marriage
Date: October 17, 2000
We begin with a quiz. Which of the following statements are true, and which
Statement One: "Divorce is usually the best answer for children when a
marriage becomes unhappy."
Statement Two: "Marriage is mostly about children. If you don't have
children, it doesn't matter whether you cohabit, marry or stay single."
Statement Three: "Marriage may be good for men, but it is bad for women,
damaging their health and self-esteem and limiting their opportunities."
Statement Four: "Old-fashioned ideas about marriage and marital obligation
put women at risk for violence."
Statement Five: "Marriage is usually a private matter, an affair of the
heart between two adults, in which no outsider, not even the children of the
marriage, should be allowed to interfere."
OK, so this is a trick quiz. All of the above statements are false. As
pointed out in an important new book titled, "The Case for Marriage: Why
Married People Are Happier, Healthier and Better Off Financially"
(Doubleday, $24.95) co-authored by Linda Waite, a professor of sociology at
the University of Chicago, and Maggie Gallagher, director of the Marriage
Project at the Institute for American Values, each statement is, in
actuality, a widely held myth about marriage.
Let's begin with the first statement. As regular readers of this column
know, research consistently shows that, except for cases in which there is
domestic violence or a very high level of conflict, children do better if
their parents stay together in an unhappy marriage than if they divorce.
But Waite and Gallagher don't stop there. In a new analysis of a nationally
representative data set, the authors found that 86 percent of couples who
reported being unhappy in their marriages in the late 1980s but did not
divorce were much happier and content with their marriages when reassessed
five years later.
Moreover, the unhappiest marriages showed the most dramatic improvements.
Indeed, 77 percent of couples who rated their marriages as very unhappy in
the late 1980s, five years later rated their marriages as "very happy" or
"quite happy." Lesson: It pays to avoid divorce, not just for your
children's sake, but for the sake of your marriage as well.
What about the second statement, that marriage is mostly about children and
so it doesn't matter whether adults cohabit, stay single or marry. If you
don't have children, these are merely different lifestyle choices -- a
series of multiple-choice items from which adults can choose without any
differential consequences for their own happiness and life satisfaction,
Well, wrong. Data presented by Waite and Gallagher confirm that adults,
whether parents or not, are happier, healthier and wealthier than their
single or cohabiting counterparts. Married people also have more satisfying
sex and live longer than single adults or those who cohabit. It turns out
marriage is not just important for child well-being, but for adult
well-being as well.
But, you say, the third statement surely is true. Marriage may be good for
men, but it is not good for women. Marriage is, after all, a patriarchal
institution in which women are regularly subjugated and oppressed by men.
That's why married women are more depressed than their freewheeling, single
Well, no. While it is true that on some measures men benefit more from
marriage than do women (the health benefits of marriage, for example, are
greater for men), on other measures women benefit more (women, for example,
show larger financial gains as a result of marriage than do men). So both
men and women benefit from marriage, albeit somewhat differently.
As for the popular notion that married women are more likely to be depressed
than single women, it turns out it is not marriage that increases the risk
for depression among women, but the presence of infants or adolescents.
That's because children at both ends of childhood can be the cause of great
stress in a household. More stress equals more depression.
In fact, when research controls for the presence of children, marriage
actually protects women from depression. That is, married women without
children are less likely to be depressed than unmarried women without
children, and married women with children are less likely to be depressed
than unmarried women with children. Far from being a primary cause of
depression among women, marriage actually serves to increase women's
OK, you say, maybe marriage is good for women as well as men, but certainly
marriage places women at greater risk for violence, doesn't it? After all,
men view a marriage license as a license to hit, don't they?
Um, no. As reviewed by Waite and Gallagher, a very consistent finding in
the empirical literature is that married women are far less likely to be the
victims of violence than are women who are cohabiting or actively dating.
Indeed, the only women who are less likely to be the victims of violence
than married women are those who avoid intimate relationships altogether.
That doesn't mean the solution for a violent relationship is to get married.
That would be ludicrous to suggest. But it does defy the popular notion
that it is their husbands who women need to fear most. That simply isn't
Well, this may be all well and good, you say, but in the end, marriage is a
private matter, something between two adults which should be nobody's
business but their own. That surely is correct, isn't it?
This myth, as Waite and Gallagher point out, may be the most pernicious of
all, for in asserting that marriage is a private choice, one is led to
believe that choices about marriage have no effect on anyone except the
couples themselves. But like it or not, the choices we make about marriage
do have consequences, not just for ourselves, but for children and society
at large. Linda Waite and Maggie Gallagher are to be commended for helping
us understand just how far-reaching those consequences truly are.
Dr. Wade F. Horn is President of the National Fatherhood Initiative, a
clinical child psychologist, and co-author of several books on parenting
including the Better Homes and Gardens New Father Book (Meredith, 1998) and
the Better Homes and Gardens New Teen Book (Meredith, 1999). Send your
question about dads, children or fatherhood to: The National Fatherhood
Initiative, 101 Lake Forest Blvd, Suite 360, Gaithersburg, MD 20877, or
e-mail him at NFI1995 at aol.com.
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