The effects of delaying marriage
There is growing concern for the societal consequences for women rearing children out of wedlock, not the least of which is rising poverty rates. But a new case is also being made for the advantages of getting married sooner. New research indicates that many women and men are delaying marriage. In fact, on average men are waiting until 29 years of age and women are waiting 27 years to get married, historic highs for both age groups.
Why do we get married?
The reasons for marriage have varied over the course of history. Marriage now is much more about romance, companionship and choice, instead of the historic reasons which were often financial or economic expediency. Experts also point to the crumbling religious framework of marriage and argue marriage now may be more about “material, emotional, sexual, and familial choices.”
And it makes sense. If we look at marriage under the hedonistic model of marriage more individuals may choose to stay single longer to either accomplish their personal or professional goals, complete an education or stabilize their life. Others contend that family pressure to “finish school” before getting married also has influenced many young adults to delay marriage.
Thus we see 20-somethings thinking less about building a mature relationship and fulfilling life’s responsibilities and more about “finding their own identity” before settling down and “getting serious” about life. But isn’t it possible to find yourself and experience life with a great life partner? And couldn’t independence really be a code word for selfish?
Marriage is good for individuals and Society
So let’s talk about why marriage is good for society. Research indicates that married people live “happier, healthier, wealthier and longer lives.” But more importantly delaying marriage which has led to increased out of wedlock child births which is proving devastating to children.
Right now out of wedlock births are skyrocketing. In 1965, 24 percent of black infants and 3.1 percent of white infants were born to single mothers. By 1990 the rates had risen to 64 percent for black infants, 18 percent for whites. Every year about one million more children are born into fatherless families.
Unfortunately, children born to a single parent do not do as well as those who grow up in an intact home with a mother and father. Research indicates children from intact families have better health, lower dropout rates, lower teen pregnancy rates and are less likely to engage in criminal activity.
What has caused the increase in out of wedlock births? Not only is it the delay of marriage, but it is also a symptom of co-habitation and a decrease in the stigma of individuals getting pregnant outside of marriage.
The Bottom Line
Getting married or getting married early may not be the best choice for everyone, but the historic goals of leaving home, finishing school, getting a job, getting married and starting a family continue to be valuable goals for today. Not only is it good for our children and their overall well-being, it’s also good for our country. Consider how just getting married before having children could significantly lower the poverty rate.
Parents and society as a whole can encourage children to marry. The first step is to help children leave home as adults rather than allowing them to leave home and spend the next 10 to 15 years trying to become adults. Teaching consequences and personal responsibility could be a good place to start and maybe that could lower the teen pregnancy rate too.
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