In a culture where everybody talks about doing what is best for kids, more and more people are separating marriage from childbearing and childrearing. A just-released Pew survey of over 2,000 adults indicates what the Washington Post calls a “widening gap between parenthood and marriage.” While parents are crazy about their kids, they no longer view them as a reason for marriage. In fact, out of the nine factors being measured by Pew as essential to success in marriage, children came in next to last. A mere 41 percent of those responding to the Pew survey said that children are important to a good marriage. In contrast, in 1990 fully 65 percent of respondents claimed that children are part of a good marriage.
In other words, marriage today is all about the adults’ preferences; it is all about “me.” If couples get married at all, the “until death do us part” aspect is disappearing; many couples get together or stay together only when they see some personal benefit in the togetherness. The end result is that nearly 60 percent of children in the U.S. live in single-parent families whose poverty rate is 4-5 times higher than married couple families. Indeed, cohabitation has increased 10-fold since 1970 with more than 5 million couples today living together without marriage and with 37 percent of American children currently born out-of-wedlock.
Ironically, these new developments come at a time when the experts agree that marriage is not just good for children’s wellbeing; it is best for children in every way. An Urban Institute study in 1999 revealed that children in married-mom-and-dad homes fare better than those in any other household arrangement when it comes to a child’s well-being –– including rate of poverty and behavioral standards.
The old song rhapsodized, “love and marriage… go together like a horse and carriage…you can’t have one without the other.” Likewise, for the vast majority of couples in the past, marriage came before children, and children were an integral part of marriage. Couples sang: “we could raise a family, a boy for you and a girl for me.” Today, though, the Pew study revealed that by a 3-to-1 ratio, adults viewed marriage in terms of their own “happiness and fulfillment” instead of including the “bearing and raising children.” Though these attitudes prevail, not everyone is happy about the changing views on marriage and family. More than 65 percent of adults think that single motherhood is bad for children and society, and nearly 60 percent disapprove of unmarried cohabiting couples. Nearly 70 percent agree that a child needs a mother-and-father family for his well-being and to produce the best outcomes.
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