Does it matter if couples get and stay married?
- Marriage increases the likelihood that fathers and mothers have good relationships with their children.
- Children are most likely to enjoy family stability when they are born into a married family.
- Children are less likely to thrive in complex households.
- Cohabitation is not the functional equivalent of marriage.
- Growing up outside an intact marriage increases the likelihood that children will themselves divorce or become unwed parents.
- Marriage is a virtually universal human institution.
- Marriage, and a normative commitment to marriage, foster high-quality relationships between adults, as well as between parents and children.
- Marriage has important biosocial consequences for adults and children.
- Divorce and unmarried childbearing increase poverty for both children and mothers, and cohabitation is less likely to alleviate poverty than is marriage.
- Married couples seem to build more wealth on average than singles or cohabiting couples.
- Marriage reduces poverty and material hardship for disadvantaged women and their children.
- Minorities benefit economically from marriage also.
- Married men earn more money than do single men with similar education and job histories.
- Parental divorce (or failure to marry) appears to increase children’s risk of school failure.
- Parental divorce reduces the likelihood that children will graduate from college and achieve high-status jobs.
Physical Health and Longevity
- Children who live with their own two married parents enjoy better physical health, on average, than do children in other family forms.
- Parental marriage is associated with a sharply lower risk of infant mortality.
- Marriage is associated with reduced rates of alcohol and substance abuse for both adults and teens.
- Married people, especially married men, have longer life expectancies than do otherwise similar singles.
- Marriage is associated with better health and lower rates of injury, illness, and disability for both men and women.
Mental Health and Emotional Well-being
- Children whose parents divorce have higher rates of psychological distress and mental illness.
- Cohabitation is associated with higher levels of psychological problems among children.
- Family breakdown appears to increase significantly the risk of suicide.
- Married mothers have lower rates of depression than do single or cohabiting mothers.
Crime and Domestic Violence
- Boys raised in non-intact families are more likely to engage in delinquent and criminal behavior.
- Marriage appears to reduce the risk that adults will be either perpetrators or victims of crime.
- Married women appear to have a lower risk of experiencing domestic violence than do cohabiting or dating women.
- A child who is not living with his or her own two married parents is at greater risk of child abuse.
- There is a growing marriage gap between college-educated Americans and less-educated Americans.
Copyright © Used with permission.
This Summary is adapted from Why Marriage Matters: Thirty Conclusions from the Social Sciences, 3rd edition, a publication of the Center for Marriage and Families at the Institute for American Values, www.americanvalues.org. The Institute is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that brings together approximately 100 leading scholars — from across the human sciences and across the political spectrum — for interdisciplinary deliberation, collaborative research, and joint public statements on the challenges facing families and civil society.
The Authors of Why Marriage Matters: Thirty Conclusions from the Social Sciences, 3rd ed .
W. Bradford Wilcox, University of Virginia; Jared R. Anderson, Kansas State University; William J. Doherty, University of Minnesota; David Eggebeen, Pennsylvania State University; Christopher G. Ellison, University of Texas at San Antonio; William A. Galston, Brookings Institution; Neil Gilbert, University of California at Berkeley; John Gottman, University of Washington (Emeritus); Ron Haskins, Brookings Institution; Robert I. Lerman, American University; Linda Malone-Colón, Hampton University; Loren Marks, Louisiana State University; Rob Palkovitz, University of Delaware; David Popenoe, Rutgers University (Emeritus); Mark D. Regnerus, University of Texas at Austin; Scott M. Stanley, University of Denver; Linda J. Waite, University of Chicago; Judith Wallerstein, University of California at Berkeley (Emerita)