Make your own free website on
Marriage and Family Fact Sheet

John Paul II Consortium on Marriage and the Family

- Marriage socializes men. Once married, men earn more, work more, and attend church more often. They also frequent bars/taverns less (Nock 1998).
- Couples who value marriage and disapprove of divorce are less likely to get divorced (Bumpass and Sweet 1995) and they are more likely to invest themselves in their marriages (Amato and Rogers 1999).
- A survey of 18,000 adults in 17 industrialized nations found that married persons have a significantly higher level of happiness than unmarried adults, even after controlling for health and financial status, which are also linked to marriage (Stack and Eshleman 1998).
- Akerlof (1996) ties the decline of marriage—including "shotgun marriage"—among working and lower class men to the rise in crime, drug use, and underemployment among teens and 20something men since the 1960s. He also makes the point that these trends have a multiplier effect, such that increases in the percentage of unmarried young men tend to lead to greater peer acceptance of not marrying/hooliganism, which only accelerates the downward cycle of social pathology in many urban and rural environments dominated by under-socialized unmarried young men. In making this argument, he makes a fairly powerful case that Charles Murray's welfare argument and William J. Wilson's jobs argument do not do a very good job in accounting for the rise in illegitimacy. The decline of shotgun marriage, as well as the cultural shift in sexual norms occasioned—in part—by the rise of contraception and abortion in the late 1960s, however, does a much better job accounting for the rise in illegitimacy.

Cohabitation and Premarital Sex
- Individuals who cohabit before they marry face a significantly higher chance of getting divorced. Estimates of this divorce risk range from 33% (Cherlin 1992) to 48% (Bumpass and Sweet 1995).
- "Cohabiting couples are less satisfied than married spouses with their partnerships, are not as close to their parents, are less committed to each other, and, if they eventually marry, have higher chances of divorce" (Nock 1998: 4).
- About half of the population under age 40 has lived with an unmarried partner, with the highest rates of cohabitation found among the least educated Americans (Bumpass and Sweet 1995).
- Teenage girls tend to seek relationship commitment and teenage boys tend to be more interested in sexual conquest. For instance, one study of teenagers found that 8 percent of girls wanted sexual intercourse when they were "going steady," but 45 percent of boys wanted sex at this stage of intimacy. Thus, teenage sexual activity tends to favor the interests of boys but not girls (Maccoby 1998).

The Importance of the Intact/Two-Parent/Biological Family
- Boys raised outside of an intact nuclear family are more than twice as likely as other boys to end up in prison, even controlling for a range of social and economic factors (Harper and McLanahan 1998).
- Children raised in a single-parent family are twice as likely to drop out of high school, and girls raised in such a family are more than twice as likely to have a child out-of-wedlock as a teenager compared to children who grow up with their biological parents (McLanahan and Sandefur 1994).
- Children who grew up in a single parent home are twice as likely to get divorced than children who grew up in a two-parent biological family (Bumpass and Sweet 1995).
- "[Young] people from single-parent families or step-families were 2 to 3 times more likely to have had emotional or behavioral problems than those who had both of their biological parents present in the home." (Zill and Schoenborn 1990: p. 9)
- "Children who grow up in a household with only one biological parent are worse off, on average, than children who grow up in a household with both of their biological parents, regardless of the parents’ race or educational background, regardless of whether the parents are married when the child is born, and regardless of whether the resident parent remarries." (McLanahan and Sandefur 1994: p. 1, emphasis added).
- "If we were asked to design a system for making sure that children’s basic needs were met, we would probably come up with something quite similar to the two-parent ideal. Such a design, in theory, would not only ensure that children had access to the time and money of two adults, it also would provide a system of checks and balances that promoted quality parenting. The fact that both parents have a biological connection to the child would increase the likelihood that the parents would identify with the child and be willing to sacrifice for that child, and it would reduce the likelihood that either parent would abuse the child." (McLanahan and Sandefur 1994: p. 38)
- The chances of a daughter being sexually abused by her stepfather are at least 7 times greater than by her biological father (Popenoe 1996).
- "[P]reschoolers in Hamilton [Ontario] living with one natural parent and one stepparent in 1993 were 40 times as likely to become child abuse statistics as like-aged children living with two natural parents" (Wilson and Daly 1987: p. 228).

- More than half of the children born in 1994 will spend some or all of their childhood in a single-parent home (McLanahan 1994).
- Approximately half of all first marriages will end in divorce (Census Bureau 1992).
- More than two-thirds of all parental divorces do not involve highly conflicted marriages. In other words, two-thirds of divorces do not happen because of spousal physical abuse and/or serious conflict; rather, they happen because spouses grow apart. "Unfortunately, these are the very divorces that most likely to be stressful for children." (Amato and Booth 1997: p. 220) The reason? Children value the love, support, and attention they receive from their parents even if their parents’ marriage isn’t particularly warm.
Gender Roles and Parents at Home
- Contrary to the expectations of feminists and family scholars, couples where men are more likely to share household tasks with their wives are also significantly more likely to get divorced (Bumpass and Sweet 1995).
- Couples where men earn the lion’s share of the family income—i.e., more than 50% of couple income—are significantly less likely to get divorced (Bumpass and Sweet 1995).
- Children who have mothers who stay at home are more likely to be religious—pray, attend church, and the like—than children whose mothers work outside the home. "The results demonstrate that the fewer the weekly hours worked by the mother and the more weekly hours worked by the father, the higher the religiosity among adult offspring" (Myers 1996: 864). Moreover, the "religiosity of the offspring is higher if the father is the main decision-maker in the family" (Myers 1996: 864).
- Teenagers who come home to an empty home—i.e., latchkey children—are more likely to experience emotional distress and drug/alcohol abuse (Resnick et al. 1997).
- Couples with traditional gender role practices are significantly more likely to have children. In fact, each percentage decrease in wife’s income contribution increases the odds of childbirth by 3% (Myers 1997).

Contraception and Fertility
- Fertility is linked to a declining risk of divorce. In fact, each child a couple has reduces their risk of divorce by 20 percent (Kaplan, Lancaster, and Anderson 1998).
- Couples who say good-bye to their youngest child at an early age are significantly more likely to divorce than other couples. The 20-year marriage is more vulnerable to the disruptive effects of the empty nest syndrome than the 30-year marriage (Hiedemann, Suhomlinova, and O’Rand 1998).
- The increased availability of abortion and contraception in the late 60s and early 70s constituted a "technology shock" that "immiserated" women who sought to avoid premarital sex, according to Akerlof et al (1996). This article points to the dramatic increase in illegitimacy and premarital sex in this period, as well as the marked decline in shotgun marriages, and asks why it happened at this particular historical period. Akerlof et al. point out that the best social evidence suggests that Charles Murray's welfare thesis and William Julius Wilson's jobs argument do not explain a great deal of this rise. They argue that the increased availability of contraception and abortion meant that women could no longer hold the threat of pregnancy over their male partners, either to avoid sex or to elicit a promise of marriage in the event that pregnancy resulted from sexual intercourse. Accordingly, more and more women gave in to their boyfriends' entreaties for sex. This left traditional women who wanted to avoid abortion/contraception/sex "immiserated" because they could not compete with women who had no serious objection to premarital sex. Thus, more of these women ended up having sex and having children out of wedlock. Accordingly, this contraceptive/abortive revolution encouraged both an increase in abortions and illegitimacy. Moreover, "the norm of the premarital sexual abstinence all but vanished in the wake of the technology shock." (Akerlof et al. 1996)

- Couples who attend church weekly are 82% less likely to divorce than couples who do not attend at all (Bumpass and Sweet 1995).
- From 1982 to 1988, the percentage of white female adolescent virgins fell from 51 to 42 percent. But the virginity rate among white female adolescents in conservative Protestant churches rose from 45 to 61 percent. (Brewster et al. 1998)
- Single women under the age of 35 who never attend church are almost twice as likely to cohabit as those who attend church (Protestant or Catholic) on a weekly basis (Bumpass and Sweet 1995).
- Single women under the age of 35 who indicate a Catholic affiliation cohabit at greater rates than other Christians (Bumpass and Sweet 1995).

George A. Akerlof. 1998. "Men Without Children." The Economic Journal 108: 287-309.
George A. Akerlof, Janet L. Yellen, and Michael L. Katz. 1996. "An Analysis of Out-of-Wedlock Childbearing in the United States." Quarterly Journal of Economics CXI: 277-317.
Paul Amato and Alan Booth. 1997. A Generation at Risk: Growing Up in an Era of Family Upheaval. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Paul Amato and Stacy Rogers. 1999. "Do Attitudes Toward Divorce Affect Marital Quality?" Journal of Family Issues (forthcoming).
Karen L. Brewster et al. 1998. "The Changing Impact of Religion on the Sexual and Contraceptive Behavior of Adolescent Women in the United States." Journal of Marriage and the Family 60: 493-503.
Larry L. Bumpass and James A. Sweet. 1995. "Cohabitation, Marriage and Union Stability: Preliminary Findings from NSFH2." NSFH Working Paper No. 65. Center for Demography and Ecology: University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Andrew J. Cherlin. 1992. Marriage, Divorce, Remarriage (revised). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Richard T. Gill. 1997. Posterity Lost: Progress, Ideology, and the Decline of the American Family. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.
Cynthia C. Harper and Sara S. McLanahan. 1998. "Father Absence and Youth Incarceration." Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association (San Francisco).
Bridget Hiedemann, Olga Suhomlinova, and Angela M. O’Rand. 1998. "Economic independence, Economic status, and Empty Nest in Midlife Marital Disruption," Journal of Marriage and the Family 60: 219-231.
Hillard S. Kaplan, Jane B. Lancaster, and Kermyt G. Anderson. 1998. "Human Parental Investment and Fertility: The Life Histories of Men in Albuquerque." In Men in Families, edited by Alan Booth and Ann Crouter. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Press.
Eleanor E. Maccoby. 1998. The Two Sexes. Cambridge: Harvard University Pres.
Sara McLanahan. 1994. "The Consequences of Single Motherhood," The American Prospect 18: 48-58.
Sara McLanahan and Gary Sandefur. 1994. Growing Up with a Single Parent: What Hurts, What Helps. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Scott M. Myers. 1996. "An Interactive Model of Religiosity Inheritance: The Importance of Family Context." American Sociological Review 61: 858-866.
-----. 1997. "Marital Uncertainty and Childbearing." Social Forces 75: 1271-1289.
Steven Nock. 1998. Marriage in Men’s Lives. New York: Oxford University Press.
David Popenoe. 1996. Life Without Father: Compelling New Evidence that Fatherhood and Marriage are Indispensable for the Good of Children and Society. New York: Free Press.
Michael D. Resnick et al. 1997. "Protecting Adolescents from Harm: Findings From the National Longitudinal Study on Adolescent Health." Journal of the American Medical Association 278: 823-832.
Steven Sack and J. Ross Eshleman. 1998. "Marital Status and Happiness: A 17-Nation Study," Journal of Marriage and the Family 60: 527-536.
U.S. Bureau of the Census. 1992. "Households, Families, and Children: A 30-Year Perspective," Current Population Reports, Pp. 23-181.
Margo Wilson and Martin Daly. 1987. "Risk of Maltreatment of Children Living with Stepparents." Pp. 215-232 in R. Gelles and J. Lancaster, eds., Child Abuse and Neglect: Biosocial
Dimensions. New York: Aldine de Gruyter.
Nicholas Zill and Charlotte A. Schoenborn. 1990. "Developmental, Learning, and Emotional Problems: Health of Our Nation’s Children, United States, 1988." Advance Data, National Center for Health Statistics, No. 120, p. 9.