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Marriage matters more than ever

A new report confirms that God’s design for the wellbeing of children still works


Marriage matters more than ever
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It’s no surprise that marriage matters for the well-being of children, but a new report from the Institute for Family Studies finds that it matters now more than ever before. 

A study comparing intact and broken families between two generations—boomers and millennials—found that the correlation between two-parent families and life success has dramatically increased with millennials. 

For example, growing up with an intact family increases millennials’ odds of graduating from college by 163 percent, compared to just 78 percent for boomers. And 77 percent of millennials from intact families achieve middle or higher income by their mid-30s—a figure that is 20 percentage points higher than for their peers from non-intact families. 

Children’s financial, social, and emotional welfare is on the line when it comes to marriage, and it’s worth Americans of all political stripes taking note. Thankfully, some progressive academics are getting on board. 

“Denying that marriage has major consequences for the economic and social well-being of individuals and society is dishonest and counterproductive, especially when it comes to how children are being raised,” wrote Melissa Kearney, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and author of The Two-Parent Privilege.  

Her essay received ample pushback from those determined to normalize alternate family models, but the numbers don’t lie. And it makes sense: God created the natural family as the cornerstone of society, incubating children with optimal support from biological parents with a moral obligation and unsurpassed love to help them flourish in life. 

The class gap—among other detrimental factors—has widened more significantly than ever as marriage declines. People are marrying less and divorcing more, a trend reflected in data showing that from 2006 to 2020, the number of adults who said it’s at least “somewhat important” for unmarried couples with a child “legally marry” fell from 76 percent to 60 percent. 

More Americans also say divorce is “acceptable” and low-conflict divorce, where children may be completely blindsided by a parental split, is far more common. This distinction—low conflict v. high conflict divorce—is an undercovered aspect of the divorce epidemic. 

It’s not politically correct to assert that two-parent homes are better, but the truth isn’t determined by politics.

As the study notes, a separation between high-conflict parents “may bring psychological relief to children,” but a separation between low-conflict parents doesn’t. In fact, such divorces are “far more damaging” because children can’t understand why the separation has occurred. But how often do we hear, “we fell out of love” or “we just weren’t right for each other anymore”? But the children are the ones who experience the worst of divorce.

Today, more kids grow up in single-parent homes in America than in any other country in the world. No wonder we’re flailing and falling behind in so many ways. Strong marriages build strong families and strong societies.

Humans were created with a desire to love and permanently connect and procreate within the institution of marriage. We should still encourage that as a society, especially because it’s an even healthier partnership than before. 

Interestingly, only 30 percent of college-educated liberals say children are better off in a two-parent family, despite the fact that they boast some of the highest rates of marriage and life success themselves. In contrast, 91percent of college-educated conservatives say kids are better in a two-parent home. 

It’s not politically correct to assert that two-parent homes are better, but the truth isn’t determined by politics. The IFS study found that misbehavior, suspensions, and expulsion rates in school were twice to three times as high for those living in non-intact families. 

Intact families mean higher graduation rates, higher incomes, and higher rates of successful marriages. Unfortunately, academia is packed with those who loathe to admit that marriage is a vital ingredient.

Rebecca Traister, for example, dismisses “the claim that marital privilege is the cause of the inequity rather than a further symptom of it.”  Traister goes down the list of potential legislative benefits to boost individual flourishing, such as changes to the tax code, labor laws, and the cost of college. She suggests overhauling housing policies and reforming the criminal justice system. She presents this monumental list of tasks all to avoid the cost-free, simple, and proven solution of incentivizing and encouraging marriage. 

As the Brookings Institution’s Kearney wrote, “no government check … is going to make up for the absence of a supportive, loving, employed second parent in the home.”

Just as we tell absent fathers they can’t buy their children’s love, we know that the government can’t buy children’s health, wealth, and flourishing with tax credits and social safety nets alone.

Ericka Andersen

Ericka Andersen is a freelance writer and mother of two living in Indianapolis. She is the author of Leaving Cloud 9 and Reason to Return: Why Women Need the Church & the Church Needs Women. Ericka hosts the Worth Your Time podcast. She has been published in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Christianity Today, USA Today, and more.

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