1970: Almost 80 percent of American adults were married.
2013: Just 52 percent of American adults are married.
What difference does it make? For a moment set aside the cultural messages you’ve heard about divorce being “normal” and even “healthy.” Could there be a connection between healthy marriages and physical, mental and emotional health? Longevity? Financial stability? A more vibrant economy? Crime reduction?
Marriage matters, not only because God created marriage as a sacred institution, but also because thriving marriages and healthy families are the cornerstone of society. Life is ultimately all about relationships—with God, through a vibrant personal relationship with Jesus Christ, as well as with our spouse and children.
New research by a group of scholars at the Institute for American Values identifies thirty distinct reasons from the social sciences why marriage is vital to the health of our nation. Take a moment to consider this powerful evidence (click here to read the full report):
1. Marriage increases the likelihood that fathers and mothers have good relationships with their children.
2. Children are most likely to enjoy family stability when they are born into a married family.
3. Children are less likely to thrive in complex households.
4. Cohabitation is not the functional equivalent of marriage.
5. Growing up outside an intact marriage increases the likelihood that children will themselves divorce or become unwed parents.
6. Marriage is a virtually universal human institution.
7. Marriage, and a normative commitment to marriage, foster high-quality relationships. between adults, as well as between parents and children.
8. Marriage has important biosocial consequences for adults and children.
9. Divorce and unmarried childbearing increase poverty for both children and mothers, and cohabitation is less likely to alleviate poverty than is marriage.
10. Married couples seem to build more wealth on average than singles or cohabiting couples.
11. Marriage reduces poverty and material hardship for disadvantaged women and their children.
12. Minorities benefit economically from marriage also.
13. Married men earn more money than do single men with similar education and job histories.
14. Parental divorce (or failure to marry) appears to increase children’s risk of school failure.
15. Parental divorce reduces the likelihood that children will graduate from college and achieve high-status jobs.
Physical Health and Longevity
16. Children who live with their own two married parents enjoy better physical health, on average, than do children in other family forms.
17. Parental marriage is associated with a sharply lower risk of infant mortality.
18. Marriage is associated with reduced rates of alcohol and substance abuse for both adults and teens.
19. Married people, especially married men, have longer life expectancies than do otherwise similar singles.
20. Marriage is associated with better health and lower rates of injury, illness, and disability for both men and women.
21. Marriage seems to be associated with better health among minorities and the poor.
Mental Health and Emotional Well-being
22. Children whose parents divorce have higher rates of psychological distress and mental illness.
23. Cohabitation is associated with higher levels of psychological problems among children.
24. Family breakdown appears to increase significantly the risk of suicide.
25. Married mothers have lower rates of depression than do single or cohabiting mothers.
Crime and Domestic Violence
26. Boys raised in non-intact families are more likely to engage in delinquent and criminal behavior.
27. Marriage appears to reduce the risk that adults will be either perpetrators or victims of crime.
28. Married women appear to have a lower risk of experiencing domestic violence than do cohabiting or dating women.
29. A child who is not living with his or her own two married parents is at greater risk of child abuse.
30. There is a growing marriage gap between college-educated Americans and less educated Americans.
“Marriage is really the unsung anti-poverty program, because single motherhood is the greatest source of impoverishment for both women and children,” Sheila Weber, executive director of National Marriage Week shared in a recent Christian post article. “If we had the marriage rate today that we had in 1970, we’d have 25 percent less poverty.”
The Battle for Marriage
Despite these many benefits, it’s no secret that marriage is on the fault line. The family landscape is riddled with tragic effects of the brokenness that tear at this God-ordained intimate bond. Abuse. Conflict. Infidelity. Pornography. Irreconcilable differences…and the list goes on.
Somewhere between 40 to 50 percent of today’s marriages end in divorce. If you count couples who separate but don’t divorce, the brokenness soars to 65 to 70 percent. But that’s not the whole story. In the corners of many hearts is profound sorrow from love gone bad.
The pain, the pace, and the pressure of modern-day life threatens to destroy marriages. For some, it’s financial problems. Communication issues. Work demands. Addictions. Painful pasts…and more. It’s easy to feel empty and exhausted, yet yearning for love. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “All I ever wanted is for someone to love me.”
Here’s a guilt-free drop: Every couples goes through times of disaffection, when they don’t feel close. But problems aren’t really the issue. We all have challenges. It’s what you do as a couple during those icy spots that make or break a marriage.
God yearns that we taste of the love and wholeness He desires for us in marriage. In Scripture, we learn marriage is close to the heart of God (Gen. 2:18-25; Eph. 5:21-33). There is no question that He desires to cloak it with beauty.
At the American Association of Christian Counselors, we firmly believe that in every relationship where there is dysfunction, conflict, and brokenness, our Redeemer God longs to bring soul healing, restoration, and life-changing hope.
Our passion is not just for marriages to survive, but to thrive…for marriages all across the world to become solid foundations and safe havens for couples, children…and future generations. I firmly believe that as marriage goes, so goes the church, the culture, and the civilization.
This Valentine’s Day, take time to celebrate and strengthen your own marriage! Encourage the couples around you to invest in their relationship and get the help they need. Let’s join with over 20 countries around the world in celebrating National Marriage Week!