How do you persuade people to get married for the good of the children?

Here is an interesting interview with David Popenoe from CBC News. (H/T Andrea)


AB: I’m wondering though if marriage is indispensable. I’ll quote you back to yourself if you don’t mind:

‘Although there are many caring and responsible non-resident fathers, the alarmingly simple fact is that men are much less likely to stay close to their children when they are not married to their children’s mother.’

Now in Quebec for instance, the last 2001 census, some 30 per cent of couples are living common law. Are we talking about a father’s presence in the hosuehold or are we talking about a father’s presence in the household while he’s formally married to the children’s mother?

DP: You know the problem with the cohabitation alternative, is that the break-up rate is so high. Even in Sweden, where cohabitation is as established a solution as it is in Quebec, the break-up rate of families with children who are just cohabiting is twice what it is for married couples. Sure they can raise children, but the likelihood of that child not living with two parents goes way up.

AB: So what do we do about this? Do we compell people to marriage? Do we offer disincentives to those couples? Do we return to the era when a child born out of wedlock is illegitimate? How do we persuade people who believe that they’re in the social vanguard, socially progressive, living without benefit of matrimony, that they ought to get married?

DP: It’s a hard question, and probably none of the things that you suggest does anybody want to do. But the first step is to realize that the decline of marriage is harmful for children. And then we have to look at culture and what’s causing the decline. After all, most cohabiting couples eventually get married.

I think it’s a question of putting children first. I don’t see any other way of bringing marriage back. But I do think marriage is very important for children even though it may be an inconvenience for a lot of adults. Incidentally, studies in the United States and other countries show that people who are married are much happier than people who are living apart or living single. And of course those are generalizations…

Does anyone have any ideas about how solve this problem?

I think that the problem of fatherlessness can be lessened with the right policies – tax incentives, the repeal of no-fault divorce, family court reform, domestic violence reform, the enactment of shared parenting laws, etc. And maybe churches could be more effective at applying Christianity to the areas of marriage and parenting so that at least Christians will understand what they are supposed to be doing with their spouses and children. For example, churches could work harder at convincing parents that they should focus more on raising the next generation of scholars, scientists and ADF lawyers.

But I think that people need to understand that feminism is the real problem here. If men are not going to be given a special role in the home, and if wives are going to compete with husband for the provider role by earning about the same or more as the man, and if judges are going to be overturning groundings on behalf of child-plaintiffs, then men are going to disengage from marriage and parenting. Until we as a society understand that men and women are fundamentally different, and that males need SPECIAL encouragement and respect for deciding to get married and to become fathers, then fatherlessness is going to remain a huge problem.

Consider this essay by Stephen Goldberg about men, marriage and family. (H/T Mysterious C)


FEMINIST “theories” deny the physiological roots of maleness and femaleness. In doing this they persuade the contemporary woman not merely that she can have it all (an eventuality impossible for those with male physiologies to believe about themselves), but that marriage can ignore crucial differences between males and females, differences that (if acknowledged at all) are incorrectly alleged to be “merely cultural” and, therefore, amenable to elimination.

Most wives of fifty years ago understood that men were just men, and that men cannot be expected or socialized to be anything else. This made the marriage agreement a realistic one that was not inherently enraging to the woman (in the way it is when there is a pretense that men are simply less lumpy women who could just as easily accept an “egalitarian” role).

The woman of the contemporary ideology–unlike all the women of all other societies that have ever existed-no longer recognizes this. When wives have expectations of an “equality” that demands not merely equal reward for different behavior, but equal reward for the same behavior, marriage as an institution is in trouble, and would be even were there not numerous other forces tending toward this end. (There is, to be sure, a range of possibilities in practical terms; the treatment of women in the United States is different from that in Saudi Arabia. But the core statistical male-female differences of cognition, temperament, and behavior are the same everywhere: no society–and only a feminist sub-culture in ours—claims to believe that women could be as aggressive as men or men as nurturing as women; no society fails to associate dominance and crime with males or familial stability and child care with females.)

Similarly, the conflicting demands of feminine attractiveness and the maternal disposition, on the one hand, and success in the public arena, on the other, have generated a feminist psycho-social view of the world as protective armor. For example, it is received wisdom among the more feminist-oriented career women that men are threatened by female success, and there is no doubt a great deal of truth to this. Unexpected competition from former allies always causes anxiety, even if the new competitors do not add to the competition one faces.

But the deep cause of the feminist emphasis on this male anxiety is the realization that even those men who are not threatened by female success are not especially drawn to it. While the perimeters of conceptions of femininity vary from time to time and culture to culture, the core behavior that defines the feminine and attracts males everywhere and at all times does not much vary. And dominant behavior is not a vital component of this femininity. Women through the ages knew that males are drawn to the feminine and that characteristics not disproportionately associated with the female elicit, at best, a male lack of interest.

But women through the ages were not told that they had to exhibit these male characteristics. Contemporary women are told that their status will, to a great extent, be determined by their ability to mimic qualities associated with the male, and women know that these are, at best, qualities that do nothing to attract males. Males have never faced an analogous conflict because women everywhere have–for reasons rooted in female physiology–been drawn to men who exhibit dominance. Despite contemporary values claiming the desirability of males with a female portion of sensitivity and nurturance, the actual behavior of even those women who give lip-service encouragement to men who claim to agree casts serious doubt on the attractiveness to women of such men. The change in the attitude of each sex toward the other is at the heart of the matter. As women have come to have less use for men, and have refused to grant their husbands the special position both sexes once took for granted, men have come to have less use for women. Both look for satisfaction on an occupational playing field on which, statistically speaking, men as a sex cannot lose and women as a sex cannot win.

Steven Goldberg was the Chair of Sociology at City College, City University of New York from 1970 to 2005.

2 thoughts on “How do you persuade people to get married for the good of the children?”

  1. Any stats on what happens to people who marry for the sake of the kids once their children grow up and move out?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s