“Indeed, my statistical models indicate that shifts in sexual norms play an important role in explaining the growing marriage gap in American life”

So explains Brad Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia and the Center for Marriage and Families at the Institute of American Values, in an interview with Kathryn Jean Lopez at National Review.  The newly released study, “When Marriage Disappears: The Retreat from Marriage in Middle America,” discusses the current sexual and marital trends in marital life. 

Ah, what the Pill hath wrought:

One of the reasons that we’re seeing a wholesale retreat from marriage in middle America is that a majority of Americans do not believe that sex needs to be connected to marriage and a growing minority of Americans do not think that parenthood needs to be connected to marriage.

And when parenthood becomes disconnected from marriage, the children suffer (surprise, right?):

Marriage is the original Department of Health and Human Services for our children, insofar as it is designed to provide children with access to the financial, social, and emotional support that they need from both of their parents. When marriage breaks down, children are hit hardest.

Big Brother is no substitute for a father.  Wilcox points out that cohabitation is as bad for children as single-parenthood:

the biggest marriage story among ordinary Americans is that cohabitation is mounting a major challenge to marriage as the preferred site for childbearing and co-residence in Middle America (as well as in many poor communities). This is disturbing because children and cohabitation do not mix. Children born to cohabiting parents are at least twice as likely to see their parents break up before they turn five, and they are much more likely to suffer educational and emotional problems, compared to children born into married homes. Finally, children in cohabiting households are at least three times more likely to be physically, sexually, or emotionally abused than children in intact, married families. And yet scholars estimate that more than 40 percent of American children will spend some time as the wards of cohabiting adults (one of whom is often unrelated).

The most disturbing facet of the study reveals a cultural caste system emerging: highly educated Americans are more likely to value marriage and work to maintain it.  They in turn teach their children to value marriage and “delay” teenage sex.  “Moderately educated” Americans, on the other hand (high school, but no college degree, 58% of the populace) are abandoning marriage for myriad reasons.  Wilcox: 

For instance, nonmarital childbearing among women with high-school degrees more than tripled in the last three decades — from 13 percent in 1982 to 44 percent in 2006–2008

Why? Over this same period, the cultural, civic, and economic foundations of marriage in middle America have been eroding. Middle Americans are markedly less likely to attend church, to embrace what I call a marriage mindset, and to hold down stable, decent-paying jobs than they were 40 or 50 years ago. And “When Marriage Disappears” finds that all of these trends help to account for the retreat from marriage among middle Americans.

What’s the point of staying in a stable job if you’re not responsible for the babies you leave behind?  The erosion of personal responsibility takes a back seat the “soul mate” fallacy.  Wilcox explains:

…a “soul mate” model of marriage has overtaken an “institutional” model of marriage in the minds of many Americans. What I mean by that is that more and more Americans think that marriage is about an intense and fulfilling couple-focused relationship that, by the way, is made possible by a comfortable and secure income.

More and more Americans have jettisoned the older, institutional view that marriage is also about raising a family together, offering mutual aid to one another in tough times, and becoming engaged in larger networks of kin and community.

The problem with the soul-mate model is that romance is an unreliable servant of marital stability. In most marriages, the emotional and sexual intensity of the couple relationship waxes and wanes. So, couples who hold a soul-mate view of marriage are more likely to be disappointed and, consequently, to head for divorce court.

I see.  So not only has Hollywood perpetuated the normalcy of out-of-wedlock births, but everyone wants their piece of the romanticized marriage-is-perfect-and-always-fabulous-and-everything-comes-up-roses-in-the-end.  The Jane Fonda view of relationships (not that she’d even get married, but that’s part of the point, isn’t it?  The disposability of marriage and sexual relationships.  When the going gets tough, the tough get going!).

Read the rest.

Myriad thanks (as always) to Pundette for the “Recommended Read” link.

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2 Responses

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by John Simmons, politicaljunkieMom. politicaljunkieMom said: "Indeed, my statistical models indicate that shifts in sexual norms play an important role in explaining the growing … http://wp.me/pKYgb-tW […]

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