October 30, 2007

Is Marriage Good For You?

Generally, yes, according to David Popenoe, a sociology professor and co-chair of the National Marriage Project at Rutgers University. In an article posted on the Discovery Health website, Dr. Popenoe exposes the benefits and myths around marriage.

So what are the benefits?

More wealth for women and better health for men, and more frequent and more satisfying sex for both genders, compared to unmarrieds.

What about the myths? Well, here’s one Purple Women™ can identify with:

Marriage Myth 2: Having children typically brings a married couple closer together and increases marital happiness.

Fact: Many studies have shown that the arrival of the first baby commonly has the effect of pushing the mother and father farther apart, and bringing stress to the marriage. However, couples with children have a slightly lower rate of divorce than childless couples.

Currently, divorce rates hover just below 50 percent of first marriages in the United States.

So how do modern marriages compare to those of our parents? Popenoe observed that modern marriages are not any happier: "Some studies have found in recent marriages, compared to those of 20 or 30 years ago, significantly more work-related stress, more marital conflict and less marital interaction."

Flicker photo by Pencils and Pixels (cc)

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britgirl said...

I could not get to the article for some reason. I'm not surprised though that couples with children would show a slightly lower divorce rate - it's a lot more difficult to divorce when you have children - and many couples may not be happy but stay together al be it reluctantly, because they have children and are concerned about the impact a breakup might have on them.

Marriage may be good for you, but marriage with children may not necessarily be. Which is interesting because of the intense pressure on married to start producing progeny and the equally intense inquisition if they don't. And let's not forget that the couple themselves (or sometimes just one of them) may feel the marriage is "incomplete" without a few kids (since they always had a dream of lots of kids) and badger the other into having one, never condidering that that very decision could be spelling the end of the marriage.

I was happily single and married relatively late. I've been very happily married for 4 years and I'm pretty sure that my contentment is in a large part due to our decision not to have children. We have lots of time for each other both as a couple and as individuals without the stress of bringing up children. I leave my stress at work... since that's where most of it comes from anyway.

As much as people insist that children add a lot to a marriage, the opposite is often true as well but this is never mentioned. Children take and take and rarely give back in the measure they take. But that's to be expected. They're children.

There ought to be courses before people actually get married to consider the effect of children...and maybe consider not having them? (Yeah, that's probably considered heresy in some circles) instead the assumption is that without children you HAVE no real marriage. Which is complete nonsense.

I wonder if the good Dr looked at "childfree" marriages as opposed to "childless" marriages. There's a difference from where I sit.

LauraS said...

Britgirl--I checked the link and it seemed to working fine at my end. Here is the address of the article, just in case you want to check it out:

Emilia said...

Unfortunately childless/childfree marriages are more likely to break up than those with children, and I think some childfree advocates are being deluded and/or dishonest to suggest otherwise. But this doesn't mean that a couple should have a baby to save a cracking marriage. And it's something couples should discuss before they get married (though of course people can always change their minds). Ultimately, marriage is what you make of it, children or no children.

emilializ said...

In fact, it appears that "childless" and "childfree" marriages are both more likely to break up than those with children. Here are abstracts from two studies showing this to be the case.

For childless marriages:

Infertility in Shanghai: prevalence, treatment seeking and impact.Che Y, Cleland J.
Shanghai Institute of Planned Parenthood Research, Shanghai, China.

To assess the level of treatment seeking and impact on marriage of infertility among newly married couples of Shanghai, China, a total of 7872 newly married couples, enrolled between 1987 and 1988, were followed-up for 5 years. The prevalence of infertility (no fertile conception after 24 months of unprotected intercourse) was found to be 5.1%. Couples' age at marriage, education, prior induced abortion, miscarriage, use of IUD or hormonal contraceptives and medical problems of both partners were associated significantly with infertility. About 57% of infertile couples sought infertility treatment and subsequently had a higher probability of childbirth (42%) than non-seekers (28%). Husband's education, induced abortion and both partner's previous medical problems were associated significantly with infertility treatment seeking. Moreover, infertile couples were 2.2 times more likely to divorce than their counterparts (95% CI 1.52-3.18). We conclude that infertility in Shanghai is modest, but a substantial number of infertile couples would not like to seek infertility treatment. Further research is needed on this subject.

For childfree marriages:

The connection between fertility and marriage is becoming more tenuous yet men’s involvement with children is largely determined and shaped by their involvement with women. In this paper I examine the influence of fertility intentions on union formation and dissolution. Married men who intend to have children are significantly less likely than those who do not intend to have children to divorce or separate. This suggests that intending to have a child does have an important effect on men’s decision to remain married. These men want (and to some extent need) a stable relationship in which to have their children and then to raise them. Among the married, there is some evidence that the child-marriage link is more important for men than women.