Uncle Sam's role Nudging, not forcing, parents to wed -3/11/02
cmfce at smartmarriages.com
Mon Mar 11 17:48:00 EST 2002
subject: Uncle Sam's role Nudging, not forcing, parents to wed -3/11/02
from: Smart Marriages
The Providence Journal published an Op Ed piece today that I wrote about
Bush's marriage agenda. (below)
If people go to the site:
they can hit a button called "post comments." I would love it if comments
could be sent to the editors. Lets get people here in S.E. New England
talking about this issue. - Scott Haltzman, MD
The Providence Journal
March 11, 2002
Uncle Sam's role Nudging, not forcing, parents to wed
THE OTHER WEEK, President Bush, as part of his overall welfare-reform
initiative, suggested that he was jumping into the business of promoting
weddings. He allotted $300 million for pro-marriage initiatives. As was
expected, accusations followed, citing that the government is sticking its
nose into other people's private lives where it doesn't belong. I disagree.
When two people decide to marry, it is a personal decision, and yet it
greatly affects society. One direct impact of marriage falls on our
health-care system, a system filled disproportionately with nonmarried
people. For reasons not entirely known, death rates from cardiac disease,
stroke, cancer and pneumonia decline for married couples. Married people, if
they become disabled, have less of a chance of ending up in a nursing home.
Accident rates, suicide and homicide rates are also lower for those who have
made the vow. And married people are known to drink less, smoke less and use
fewer illicit drugs.
Just as directly, marriage affects children. It provides a cloak of
protection for the young. In their book A Case For Marriage, Linda Waite and
Maggie Gallagher report that by virtue of living with parents who are
married to each other, an infant has a more than 50 percent greater chance
of surviving the first year of life. Throughout his childhood, he'll be 33
percent less likely to have serious heath problems. He'll be less likely to
repeat a year at school, and more likely to graduate. The benefits of being
an adult child of married parents, studies show, include better lifelong
health, and a longer lifespan by four years.
Married couples are generally better off financially, are less likely to
have run-ins with the legal system, and are more successful in their chosen
careers. The sons and daughters of married couples, both as youngsters and
adults, also fare better socially, economically and emotionally.
This is all statistical, of course, but the statistics are irrefutable.
Marriage is good for America. And so marriage becomes the government's
A citizen's decision to marry is like the decision to put on a seat belt
--private, yes, but society has something at stake, so the government is
justified in exerting some influence. The decision to not marry or to end a
marriage, especially if there are children, is a bit like deciding to drink
before driving. Again, it's a personal choice, but society bears its
As a physician who promotes health and well-being, I would never advocate
that anyone ever be coerced to enter a bad marriage or to preserve an
abusive one. Rather, I advocate the support of programs that educate and
counsel people to form solid, long-lasting, legal unions. And that is
exactly what the president's plan, and a modest infusion of federal dollars,
Academic research, and a whole lot of anecdotal evidence, shows that couples
programs such as PAIRS, Partners and the mentoring programs run by many
churches and synagogues are highly effective in promoting marriage and
marital stability. They achieve this by teaching men and women the skills
necessary to share intimacy and to deal with the inevitable conflicts that
arise in any long-term relationship.
Fostering good marriages obviously isn't the only thing the government can
or should be doing to improve the lot of the poor. It isn't the only thing
government can do to protect children, safeguard public health, or reduce
tax burdens on citizens. But it's a darned good start toward all of these
After all, marriage is a legal contract that binds its partners. As such,
it's something like an incorporated business. Good marriages are like
Wal-Mart -- not always glamorous, but full of promise and profit.
Noncommittal relationships involving children are more like Enron. And if
the whole Enron fiasco has taught us anything, it is that sometimes, when
lots of people stand to be hurt, the government ought to get involved.
Scott Haltzman, M.D., a psychiatrist, is founder of SecretsofMarriedMen.com
and medical director at NRI Community Services, in Woonsocket.
NOTE: Scott will present a session "Win Your Wife's Heart Forever" at the
July Smart Marriages conference. It's for men only. He's also working on a
book, Secrets of Married Men. See his add on page 9 of the conference
brochure that asks for your participation in the book project. - diane
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