Marriage & the growing class divide in America

posted at 2:01 pm on July 17, 2012 by Dustin Siggins

On Saturday, The New York Times published a lengthy essay on the differences between the lives of those who get married before having children and those who don’t. It also focused on a marital trend that is steadily becoming reality in the U.S.: the emergence of a divided society, separated along the lines of marriage and education. While college-educated Americans continue the traditional path of first comes marriage followed by the baby, among low-income communities and spreading into “middle America” communities is the norm of unwed births with its myriad of ills.

One angle the article didn’t touch much on was how personal decisions impact the chances of being a single parent. One Times blogger did, however:

Many of us (myself included) don’t miss the days of moral judgments that coincided with a time when fewer children were being raised in single-parent households, but if children raised in unintentional out-of-wedlock households continue to struggle in comparison with children in two-parent homes, we need to find a way to replace the force of those social norms without going backward in social acceptance. Can we distinguish between promoting some kind of “parent preparedness” and condemning its lack?

One of the most striking moments of “Two Classes, Separated by ‘I Do’” comes as Ms. Schairer refuses to complain. “I’m in this position because of decisions I made,” she says. Her willingness to accept where those choices have led is admirable, but it’s the impact of those choices on her three children that we must address. No one benefits from their struggles, and if they fail to succeed at becoming self-supporting adults, we will all pay for that failure, although none so much as the children themselves.

The author’s point is pretty good – constructive criticism and encouragement for the future are often more beneficial than outright condemnation. Of course, I am guessing this particular Times contributor is overstating the “moral judgments” made fifty and more years ago, and I have to ask if she really believes moral judgments are worse than the disaster out-of-wedlock marriage has been on America’s culture.

Abstinence is a major part of the solution here. Despite contraception use by the vast majority of Americans, as well as 1.2 million abortions annually, 41% of births are outside of marriage, and 53% of births to women under 30 are out of wedlock. While both contraception and abortion are immoral, they are usually symptoms of the overall problem of a lack of abstinence until marriage. Which is why Mount St. Mary’s University graduate student Erica Szalkowski and I co-authored a piece this morning offering one possible solution: increased chastity by women in order to help men, who are often weaker when it comes to resisting sexual temptation, rise to the proverbial occasion to “help men reform themselves and become the moral authorities they need to be.”

Erica also published a piece at Daily Caller yesterday in which she laid out the case against pornography, and pointed out the harm it has on relationships, on norms related to thinking about sex and relationships, etc. With prevalence via magazines, the Internet, hotels, and DVD and video rental stores, could a cultural (not legal) stand against pornography help prevent such a high rate of single parenting and corresponding poverty and struggling childhood?

The societal consequences of single parenting are well-known. Even liberals admit their feminist and “free sex, no consequence” viewpoints have failed parents and children alike in areas like education, drugs, employment and poverty. Rather than return to practices that greatly improve marital success, however – such as Catholic teachings related to abstinence and Natural Family Planning, as well as other traditions that encourage personal and familial responsibility – they’d rather foist the financial consequences of out-of-wedlock births and “free” sex on the rest of us via certain welfare programs and the HHS contraception/abortifacient/sterilization mandate. Given what the Times discussed, however, perhaps a focus on improving our education system and lowering the cost of college attendance would be a better use of public dollars than using tax dollars to violate the First Amendment and ineffectively subsidize college loans?

 


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Read “Uncle Sam’s Plantation”. It will give you a first hand account of how welfare system & societal acceptance has encouraged the increased birth of children to unwed parents.

CorbinGrey on July 17, 2012 at 8:53 PM

A mother doesn’t need a husband to help take care of her and her children. That’s what government is for.

VorDaj on July 17, 2012 at 9:25 PM

50% of young people grew up in a home in which the original parents divorced — oftentimes leaving the mother to struggle because the father freed from responsibility contributes bare minimum to the welfare of his kids.
then they watch both parents firmly put them in the backseat irt priorities as they try to find the next true love.

Can anyone really blame them for being so cynical about marriage — after all their parents have proven it is a bust anyway.

“contraception and abortion are immoral”
Come on Dustin what exactly is immoral about contraception?

Bradky on July 17, 2012 at 9:39 PM

That’s what government is for.

VorDaj on July 17, 2012 at 9:25 PM

And that is the convenient rationalization that so many men use when they abandon their families for other interests. Better the gov pay for it than god forbid I get hit up for child support and alimony…

Bradky on July 17, 2012 at 9:40 PM

JoeSchmoe99

Aw dang it! Now you done gone and broke my heart!

avgjo on July 17, 2012 at 9:56 PM

Bradky on July 17, 2012 at 9:39 PM

You don’t know?

It is because you are taking the decision about the creation of life out of the hands of GOD!

It was in the sermon on EWTN at 7 PM tonight.

I watch that channel all the time and pray for a counterpoint to the party girls in Vegas who give me guidance in sexual ethics. And the impressed the heck out of the room service guy last time.

This Siggins above seems really smart. Ought to be on NBC after they straighten out.

IlikedAUH2O on July 17, 2012 at 10:03 PM

My parents in their upper 80s are still married (first time )

Next month makes 28 years for my wife & I (first time)

Commitment and work means nothing to lots of people these days.

Robert Jensen on July 17, 2012 at 10:51 PM

Kudos to you, Dustin; didn’t expect to see an opinion like that.

Sadly, telling folks to abstain from sex won’t help the ones who really need to hear the message – dozens of different pressures from different angles will corrode their resolve worse than Obama’s administration has corroded the strength of our economy.

Aquarian on July 17, 2012 at 11:21 PM

It is because you are taking the decision about the creation of life out of the hands of GOD!

Doesn’t using the rhythm method essentially do the same thing?

Bradky on July 17, 2012 at 11:46 PM

Have you ever met a person who wishes they had become sexually active sooner?

Cindy Munford on July 17, 2012 at 11:48 PM

Can anyone really blame them for being so cynical about marriage — after all their parents have proven it is a bust anyway.

Bradky on July 17, 2012 at 9:39 PM

Can we blame them for being cynical? Not really. That doesn’t mean that the idea of marriage is flawed just because two people are burdening you with the consequences of their screw-ups.

Besides, look at all the things you described in your example. These things are all results of the couple being divorced. So what it proves is not that marriage sucks, but that DIVORCE sucks.

There are valuable lessons one can take away from examining the suckiness of broken homes like that. Like maybe one should take greater responsibility for one’s family and not throw away a marriage on a whim. Or better still, that marriage and parenthood is a big responsibility that should be taken seriously before – not after – someone decides to get hitched.

In the end, marriage as defined among religious conservatives (and, I’m certain, many others) is the formation of a new family unit by taking a solemn vow to assume responsibility for the lives of everyone else in your household, no matter what. The problems described above are the result of what happens when someone’s own desires are pursued at the expense of the needs of others who rely on you for their very well-being.

Out of tragedies like these, wonderful teaching moments can arise. Let’s make sure not to learn the wrong lessons from them.

The Schaef on July 18, 2012 at 7:54 AM

The Schaef on July 18, 2012 at 7:54 AM

I didn’t say the idea of marriage is a bad idea. the reality is that some 50% of marriages end in divorce. Many are religious as well as conservative people. The common denominator in most breakups is selfishness on the part of both partners. I’m sure you have seen at least a few comments at HA by self proclaimed conservative christians who are in their second or third marriage. They just use a different rationalization than those of liberals who break up — neither of which is convincing.
There are quite a few divorces when the couple has been together for decades, raised kids and been through a lot. Then when the kids are gone they split – again leaving the adult kids to wonder why they should even bother.
I don’t care for the phrase “teaching moment” — Obama likes this phrase. But the teaching moments (for kids irt their parents) when it comes to marriage never stop unless of course their parents divorce.

Bradky on July 18, 2012 at 8:37 AM

Doesn’t using the rhythm method essentially do the same thing?

Bradky on July 17, 2012 at 11:46 PM

In reference to the “quiverfull” mentality of fundyism, any kind of family planning at all is an offense to the Almighty, and only uncontrolled reproduction (within the bounds of marriage) is commendable.

MelonCollie on July 18, 2012 at 10:06 AM

No one benefits from their struggles, and if they fail to succeed at becoming self-supporting adults, we will all pay for that failure, although none so much as the children themselves.

I disagree. They benefit from their struggles, and – just maybe – their descendants benefit. And, I don’t see why any of us should pay for that failure – at least not collectively, as a society, through government welfare of any sort.

Unless, of course, she is advocating taking these children away from someone who obviously made extremely poor decisions, and giving them to someone who has demonstrated good decision-making skills. Somehow I don’t think that is what she means. (I’m not really much of an advocate of that, either, because of government’s demonstrated lack of those very same decision-making skills.)

GWB on July 18, 2012 at 10:28 AM

Contraception is “immoral”?
90% of America disagrees, including over 80% of Catholics.
Abstinence until marriage?

Yeah, that will work.
What’s the view like from deep in the sand?

greataunty on July 18, 2012 at 10:45 AM

Doesn’t using the rhythm method essentially do the same thing?

Bradky on July 17, 2012 at 11:46 PM

MelonCollie on July 18, 2012 at 10:06 AM

NFP is the recognition and acceptance of the inevitable consequence of sex, rather than the artifical contraceptive mentality that is the complete avoidance of pregnancy. It is the contraceptive mentality that leads to all of the societal ills we are seeing, the inevitable result of removing the consequence from the act.
Pornography, abortion, divorce, violence is all a natural result of using each other as sexual objects of gratification, which is what happens when sex is divorced from pregnancy. All of this is prophetically laid out by Pope Paul VI in Humanae Vitae.

quiz1 on July 18, 2012 at 3:50 PM

I didn’t say the idea of marriage is a bad idea.

The conclusion drawn by the children mentioned in your example is that marriage is “a bust” as proven by their parents’ behavior. That is the mark from which my reply took form.

the reality is that some 50% of marriages end in divorce.

The ACTUAL reality is that the divorce rate per capita per year is roughly half the marriage rate per capita per year. It’s a misleading figure that does not account for the length of marriage (as if marriage is a single-year statistic that either passes or fails) and a host of other factors. The optimists put the actual percentage of marriages that do not stick the first time at about 10%, but most studies that attempt to hit this moving target ballpark it between a quarter and a third. We’ll say 30% for the sake of argument; it’s still too high, at any rate.

I initially left the “50% of kids” remark alone because, while people are probably tying it directly to the divorce rate, the fact of the matter is that most kids are born in or shortly preceding a married situation – 3/4 or more, and that even with the number of illegitimate births skyrocketing in the last decade. So even if the actual divorce rate is lower, and even though not every marriage has children, there are more “potential targets” among children because so many belong to married families.

I’m sure you have seen at least a few comments at HA by self proclaimed conservative christians who are in their second or third marriage. They just use a different rationalization than those of liberals who break up — neither of which is convincing.

It’s true that Christianity in America – at least the self-proclaimed sort, which could involve as little as picking up your fire insurance on Sunday and going back to doing whatever you want – does not translate automatically into more committed marriages. But we’re talking about people who aren’t making a lot of strong commitments in their life as it is. That doesn’t make the cynics right, it just makes a whole lot of other people wrong.

But the teaching moments (for kids irt their parents) when it comes to marriage never stop unless of course their parents divorce.

That’s kind of my point, though. The things that are supposed to be turning them off to marriage don’t actually have anything to do with marriage. They are related to the divorce and the aftermath. If we continue to tie post-divorce behavior to marriage, its credibility is going to suffer, and unfairly so. But if we point to a larger pattern of irresponsible behavior – of which the failed marriage is a symptom and not a cause – then we have a chance to preserve the things that are healthy for our society, both by restoring respect for remaining in a marriage but also by restoring a sense of sobriety to getting into one in the first place.

The Schaef on July 18, 2012 at 8:47 PM

http://www.anncoulter.com/columns/2012-07-18.html#read_more
also see Ann Coulter’s column

talkingpoints on July 18, 2012 at 9:52 PM

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