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Same-Sex Marriage, Part 2: The Benefits of Traditional Marriage

Same-Sex Marriage, Part 2: The Benefits of Traditional Marriage

Same-sex marriage has become a tremendous cultural and political debate, although the arguments from both sides are generally replete with more emotion than logic. Although most everyone has an opinion on the subject, few are able to clearly articulate the issues fundamental to the debate. This series attempts to clarify the reasons no one, gay or straight, should advocate for legalizing gay marriage. Part 1 of the series addressed the most central issue in this argument; namely the fact that gay marriage, contrary to popular belief, does not simply open the institution of marriage to a wider group of people. Instead, gay marriage effectively changes what the institution of marriage is. Gay marriage replaces an institution grounded in human nature with one rooted in human choice. By doing so, as future articles will flesh out, same-sex marriage effectively leads to the demise of marriage as an institution.

However, before we can understand how same-sex marriage impacts the institution of marriage, and what the implications of that are for society, it is necessary to understand what traditional marriage does for individuals, and for our culture as a whole. To be able to argue that marriage shouldn’t be changed, one must first understand why marriage, as it currently is defined, is important.

Impact of Marriage on Spouses

A tremendous amount of research demonstrates that marriage between a man and a woman has significant positive effects on both individuals and society as a whole. First, marriage contributes to the emotional well-being of its partners. Studies have found that married couples have a higher quality of relationship than those who cohabitate (based on frequency of interaction and other factors), and those who are married are happier than those who are divorced, widowed, separated, or never-married, even when factoring in race, age, sex, education or income. Both men and women who are married have lower levels of stress than those who are not. Likewise, adults who have tied the knot report less depression and are also less likely to commit suicide than those who are not married. Another significant aspect of marriage’s impact on emotional well-being is the fact that married couples have significantly lower rates of physical aggression and abuse than cohabitating couples.

Marriage also positively impacts the physical health of the adults involved. Married adults are healthier than those who are unmarried. They are more physically active and less prone to obesity. Married individuals are less likely to receive services from a hospital or health institution,[1] have fewer doctors’ visits, and shorter hospital stays for those who are admitted.  Likewise, wedded adults have lower instances of diabetes, hypertension and heart disease, and rate their overall health better than those who have been divorced, separated, widowed, or never-married. Married persons have fewer problems with alcohol abuse[2] and are less likely to smoke. People who are married even have lower mortality rates than those who are not, with their risk of mortality decreasing the longer they are married.

In addition to all of those benefits, marriage also has significant positive economic benefits for adults. Intact married families have the greatest net worth of any other type of sexual partnering structure, and are less likely to live in poverty.[3] Marriage positively impacts men’s employment, with married men earning approximately 22% more than those who have never cohabitated or married. Married couples also save more than those who are not married, and have a higher income over time than all other family structures.[4]

Impact of Marriage on Children

The institution of marriage is not only extremely beneficial for adults; children benefit greatly from traditional marriage. This is, of course, common sense, because traditional marriage protects the right of children to their mother and father. But research also demonstrates that children need both for optimal development; mothers and fathers offer unique, yet both important roles in helping children develop emotionally, intellectually, and socially.[5] Children of involved fathers, for example, are more emotionally secure, have fewer behavioral problems, and do better academically.[6]  Fathers tend to help children learn skills such as independence, and orientation to the outside world[7], while children’s emotional bonding with mothers helps them develop conscience, empathy, and self-worth.[8] Children who live with their biological parents, or two adoptive parents, have a higher quality relationship with their mother and father than those who do not.

Marriage serves as a protective factor for children in almost every area. For example, children of intact families are significantly less likely than others to engage in sexual intercourse, exhibit disruptive behavior, be suspended from school[9], engage in the use of drugs and alcohol[10], or commit suicide. They tend to be less depressed[11] and are less likely to engage in crime than those from non-intact families. Marriage also positively impacts kids’ academic achievement: Children from intact families have higher achievement test scores in both math and reading, higher GPAs, and are more likely to graduate from high school and apply to college. Children from married parents are less likely to be abused, and even less likely to suffer from asthma. In general, children of intact, married families are healthier physically, emotionally and behaviorally than children from other family situations.[12]

Research backs up what is common sense: children need their mothers and fathers. Traditional marriage, where a husband and wife commit permanently both to themselves and to any children they produce, is the best way to protect the interests and well-being of children.

Impact of Marriage on Society

Traditional marriage not only benefits the husband and wife and children – it has tremendous positive benefits for society at large. It is for this reason the state is involved in regulating marriage at all; the state has no particular interests in personal relationships for their own sake. The government has a stake in promoting marriage because of its impact on the larger culture. Research makes it clear that that impact is great, indeed.

Happier: Of course it is obvious that any benefit to adults and to children naturally affects society as a whole, because society is made up of individuals. However, there are specific ways that traditional marriage is a particularly valuable institution from the standpoint of the state. As social ills increase, government and private sector responsibility toward relieving and protecting from those problems also increases. A report by The Heritage Foundation noted that being raised in a family in which his or her parents are married reduces the chances of the child living in poverty by 82 percent. Marriage serves to reduce societal problems (many of which are associated with poverty) such as crime, abuse, unwanted children, poverty, poor academic achievement and suicide, which leads to a safer, healthier, more enjoyable and more just society. In other words, marriage helps society fulfill our nation’s declaration to secure the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Healthier: Because marriage positively impacts the physical health of adults and children, it leads to a healthier population who utilize fewer healthcare services, thereby reducing healthcare costs to everyone.[13] Marriage also increases individuals’ psychological well-being (thereby encouraging the psychological stability of the culture as a whole), and makes society safer by reducing crime and abuse. One of the most significant ways marriage is beneficial for our culture is that intact, biological families are less likely to be impoverished than any other family structure type.  Marriage, therefore, not only reduces the multitude of social ills associated with poverty, but reduces the need for services such as welfare, foster care, and incarceration – all of which are tremendously costly to taxpayers. Marriage even has a positive effect on citizenship, with married people more likely than unmarried to vote, and be involved in civic or service projects.[14]

Wealthier: One of the most obvious ways marriage positively influences society is through its contribution to the economy. Married families have greater wealth, which translates to revenue for the economy. The salary increase per year for married men, for example, is almost equivalent to the increase given for years experience on the job. However, intact married families have declined significantly since the 1960s, with more than 55% of American children entering adulthood in 2008 coming from a broken family. The number of children in the average American household has also decreased with the decline of marriage, falling by more than 50% 1960s. Likewise, the annual GDP has steadily reduced during this same timeframe.[15] Fewer intact married families means fewer workers are being put out into the workforce, that a greater number of those who are in the workforce are unmarried and therefore producing less wealth[16], and that a greater number of persons overall are unequipped to produce in the economy and instead are dependent upon the government.[17]

Marriage is not only essential for the creation of the workforce, but it generates more wealth for the economy and equips children to become adults who are producers rather than consumers.[18] This fact was demonstrated by a study of the University of Virginia’s (UVa) National Marriage Project, which reported, “Children reared outside of an intact family are significantly less likely to acquire the human and social capital they need to become well-adjusted, productive workers.”[19]. Without a doubt, marriage provides tremendous benefits for the economic well-being of society. Professor W. Bradford Wilcox summarized the findings of the UVa study in this way:

“…The wealth of nations depends in no small part on the health of the family.”

The Costs of Marriage Breakdown: On the opposite end of the scale, the breakdown of marriage has tremendous costs to society. The Brookings Institution, for example, found that between 1970 and 1996 $229 billion in welfare spending could be attributed to the social problems that result from the breakdown of marriage. A 2008 report by the University of Virginia and the Institute for American Values found that the “middle class” in America, with its economic and social benefits, was decreasing in tandem with the decline of marriage amongst the middle class.[20] The study found that the social consequences from this disappearance of marriage (including divorce and unwed childbearing) cost taxpayers around $112 billion a year. Marital breakdown serves to weaken individuals, families, and society as a whole. Marriage, without a doubt, is the most efficient, effective, and least expensive way to disseminate the greatest good to society.

Overall Benefits of Marriage

The bottom line is that marriage between a man and a woman matters greatly, for everyone. The institution of marriage is infinitely more significant to society than being simply a matter of an emotional bond between individuals. Why? Because it is one of the most foundational institutions for the creation and development of persons. Marriage is not simply a matter of personal feeling between partners; it is the foundation for family – the most basic form of community that is designed for human flourishing. This is, of course, why the state has an interest in promoting it. The benefits marriage brings for children, adults, society, and the economy cannot be matched by any other familial arrangement.

When there is damage to an institution that creates and nurtures people, such as through divorce or any other means, there is damage to the people themselves. And, of course, when people become damaged, other institutions, such as the government, must step in to fill in the gap. The government makes a poor substitute, indeed, for a child’s mother and father.

Marriage is the linchpin in our societal machine, one without which we will not be able to adequately function. The best way to reduce societal ills, bolster the economy, and produce healthy, flourishing individuals is to strengthen the institution of marriage. This is, in fact, the end game for most traditional marriage supporters – not to simply oppose any redefinition of marriage, but to bolster the already-lagging institution of marriage itself so that it becomes stronger and healthier. This series will explore the ways that same-sex marriage does exactly the opposite – ultimately resulting in the obliteration of marriage all together.

And, let there be no doubt, with the demise of marriage comes the demise of individual persons and the demise of society as a whole.

Read the rest of the series here:

 

Sources:

Anderson, R. T. (2013, March 11). “Marriage: What It Is, Why It Matters, and the Consequences of Redefining It. The Heritage Foundation. Retrieved from http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2013/03/marriage-what-it-is-why-it-matters-and-the-consequences-of-redefining-it#_ftn19

Anderson, R. (2012, December 18). “Can the President have a Marriage Agenda Without Talking About What Marriage Is?” Public Discourse. Retrieved from http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2012/12/7437/

Beach, W. W. & Anderson, R. T. (2013, March 13). “We Don’t Need to Redefine Marriage to Fix Policy Problems”. Public Discourse. Retrieved from http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2013/03/9583/

Blackenhorn, D. (2008, September 19). “Protecting Marriage to Protect Children”. Los Angeles Times: Opinion. Retrieved from http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-blankenhorn19-2008sep19,0,6057126.story

Fagan, P., Dougherty, A. & McElvain, M. (2012, February 8). “162 Reasons to Marry”. Marriage and Religion Research Institute. Retrieved from http://www.marri.us/reasons-to-marry

Fagan, P. F., Kidd, A. J., & Potrykus, H. (2011). “Marriage and Economic Well-being: The Economy of the Family Rises or Falls With Marriage”. Marriage and Religion Research Institute. Retrieved from http://www.marri.us/get.cfm?i=RS11E03

The Heritage Foundation (2013). “Family Structure and Children’s Education”. From familyfacts.org. Retrieved from http://www.familyfacts.org/briefs/35/family-structure-and-childrens-education

The Heritage Foundation (2013). “Family Structure and Economic Well-being”. From familyfacts.org. Retrieved from http://www.familyfacts.org/briefs/31/family-structure-and-economic-well-being

The Heritage Foundation (2013). “Keeping Teens Safe: How the Intact Family Buffers Against Teen Substance Use”. From familyfacts.org. Retrieved from http://www.familyfacts.org/briefs/24/keeping-teens-safe-how-the-intact-family-buffers-against-teen-substance-use

Lee, P., George, R. & Bradley, G. (2011, March 30). “Marriage and Procreation: Avoiding Bad Arguments”. Public Discourse. Retrieved from http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2011/03/2637/

Maher, B. E. (2005, February 18; March 8). “The Benefits of Marriage”. Family Research Council. Retrieved from http://www.frc.org/get.cfm?i=IS05B01

Pappas, S. (2012, June 17).“Fatherhood Science: Dads Do Affect Children as Much as Mothers Do, Research Suggests”. Huffington Post: Science. Retrieved from  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/16/fatherhood-science-dads-a_n_1602545.html

Popenoe, D. (2010, July 29). “Life Without Father”. From blog “Parental Rights”. http://mkg4583.wordpress.com/2010/07/29/life-without-father-by-david-popenoe/

Potrykus, H. & Fagan, P. (2012, August 27). “Non-Labor Reduces U. S. Labor Participation: The Abandonment of a Marriage Puts America at Risk of a Depression”. Marriage and Religion Research Institute.  http://downloads.frc.org/EF/EF12H57.pdf

Potrykus, H., Fagan, P., & Schwarzwalder, R. (2011). “Our Fiscal Crisis: We Cannot Tax, Spend, or Borrow Enough to Substitute for Marriage”. Marriage and Religion Research Institute. Retrieved from http://marri.us/our-fiscal-crisis-we-cannot-tax-spend-and-borrow-enough-to-substitute-for-marriage

Rickel, A. U. & Langer, T. S., “Short-term and long-term effects of marital disruption on children,” American Journal of Community Psychology 13 (1985): 599-661.

Rosenberg, J. & Wilcox, W. B. (2006). “The Importance of Fathers in the Healthy Development of Children.” Child Welfare Information Getaway. Office on Child Abuse and Neglect, U.S. Children’s Bureau. Retrieved from https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/usermanuals/fatherhood/chaptertwo.cfm

Snell, R. J. (2012, November 27). “Reason and Compassion in the Marriage Debate”. Public Discourse. Retrieved from http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2012/11/7215/

Social Trends Institute (2011). “The Sustainable Demographic Dividend: What Do Marriage and Fertility Have to Do With the Economy?” An international report sponsored by National Marriage Project, Institute of Marriage and Family Canada, Universidad De Los Andes (Chile), University of Asia and the Pacific (Philippines), Universitat Internacional de Catalunya (Spain), Universidad de la Sabana (Colombia), Universidad de Piura (Peru). Retrieved from http://sustaindemographicdividend.org/articles/the-sustainable-demographic

Wood, R. G., Goseling, B. & Avellar, S. (2007, June). “The Effects of Marriage on Heath: A Synthesis of Recent Research Evidence”. ASPE (Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation) Research Brief, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved from  http://aspe.hhs.gov/hsp/07/marriageonhealth/rb.htm


[1] Fagan, P., Dougherty, A. & McElvain, M. (2012, February 8). “162 Reasons to Marry”. Marriage and Religion Research Institute.

[2] Fagan, P., Dougherty, A. & McElvain, M. (2012, February 8). “162 Reasons to Marry”. Marriage and Religion Research Institute.

[3] Fagan, P. F., Kidd, A. J., & Potrykus, H. (2011). “Marriage and Economic Well-being: The Economy of the Family Rises or Falls With Marriage”. Marriage and Religion Research Institute.

[4] The Heritage Foundation (2013). “Family Structure and Economic Well-being”. From familyfacts.org.

[5] Popenoe, D. (2010, July 29). “Life Without Father”. From blog “Parental Rights”; Blackenhorn, D. (2008, September 19). “Protecting Marriage to Protect Children”. Los Angeles Times: Opinion.

[6]Maher, B. E. (2005, February 18; March 8). “The Benefits of Marriage”. Family Research Council;

Rosenberg, J. & Wilcox, W. B. (2006). “The Importance of Fathers in the Healthy Development of Children.” Child Welfare Information Getaway. Office on Child Abuse and Neglect, U.S. Children’s Bureau;

Pappas, S. (2012, June 17).“Fatherhood Science: Dads Do Affect Children as Much as Mothers Do, Research Suggests”. Huffington Post: Science.

[7] Rosenberg, J. & Wilcox, W. B. (2006). “The Importance of Fathers in the Healthy Development of Children.” Child Welfare Information Getaway. Office on Child Abuse and Neglect, U.S. Children’s Bureau.

[8] Maher, B. E. (2005, February 18; March 8). “The Benefits of Marriage”. Family Research Council.

[9] The Heritage Foundation (2013). “Family Structure and Children’s Education”. From familyfacts.org;

A.U. Rickel and T.S. Langer, “Short-term and long-term effects of marital disruption on children,” American Journal of Community Psychology 13 (1985): 599-661.

[10] The Heritage Foundation (2013). “Keeping Teens Safe: How the Intact Family Buffers Against Teen Substance Use”. From familyfacts.org.

[11] Fagan, P., Dougherty, A. & McElvain, M. (2012, February 8). “162 Reasons to Marry”. Marriage and Religion Research Institute.

[12] Anderson, R. (2013, March 11). “Marriage: What It Is, Why It Matters, and the Consequences of Redefining It”. The Heritage Foundation.

[13] Wood, R. G., Goseling, B. & Avellar, S. (2007, June). “The Effects of Marriage on Heath: A Synthesis of Recent Research Evidence”. ASPE (Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation) Research Brief, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

[14] Maher, B. E. (2005, February 18; March 8). “The Benefits of Marriage”. Family Research Council.

[15] Potrykus, H., Fagan, P., & Schwarzwalder, R. (2011). “Our Fiscal Crisis: We Cannot Tax, Spend, or Borrow Enough to Substitute for Marriage”. Marriage and Religion Research Institute.

[16] Potrykus, H. & Fagan, P. (2012, August 27). “Non-Labor Reduces U. S. Labor Participation: The Abandonment of a Marriage Puts America at Risk of a Depression”. Marriage and Religion Research Institute.

[17] Potrykus, H., Fagan, P., & Schwarzwalder, R. (2011). “Our Fiscal Crisis: We Cannot Tax, Spend, or Borrow Enough to Substitute for Marriage”. Marriage and Religion Research Institute.

[18] Potrykus, H., Fagan, P., & Schwarzwalder, R. (2011). “Our Fiscal Crisis: We Cannot Tax, Spend, or Borrow Enough to Substitute for Marriage”. Marriage and Religion Research Institute.

[19] Social Trends Institute (2011). “The Sustainable Demographic Dividend: What Do Marriage and Fertility Have to Do With the Economy?” An international report sponsored by National Marriage Project, Institute of Marriage and Family Canada, Universidad De Los Andes (Chile), University of Asia and the Pacific (Philippines), Universitat Internacional de Catalunya (Spain), Universidad de la Sabana (Colombia), Universidad de Piura (Peru).

[20] Anderson, R. (2012, December 18). “Can the President have a Marriage Agenda Without Talking About What Marriage Is?” Public Discourse; Beach, W. W. & Anderson, R. T. (2013, March 13). “We Don’t Need to Redefine Marriage to Fix Policy Problems”. Public Discourse.

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