Ocean Mist

1 Jun 2007

Of Marriage and Menage

Posted by Phil

Nothing is more necessary for a successful household than a successful marriage. The importance of marriage only expands when there are children living in the household. The Economist recently published an article analyzing the effect married parents have on children in the family.1 It looked at the level of success children experience later in life measured by income, education, behavior and overall psychological health.

Money is not the ultimate definition of success, but it can be beneficial to discuss. Becoming extremely wealthy is not necessary to be successful in God’s eyes, but earning a living and making enough to adequately care for your family is.2 For households that take in more than $75,000 a year, 92% of children live with two parents.1 That drops to 20% when looking at households earning less than $15,000 a year.1 Unfortunately, this tends to become a cycle with children of single parents five times as likely to be poor as those with two, married parents.1

But income isn’t the only measurement that degrades when children grow up having only a single parent. Children living with single parents are two times as likely to drop out of high school as those who live with both.1 This has a snowball effect through the rest of the child’s life, causing him or her to become twice as likely to have behavioral or psychological problems during his or her life.1 The studies that generated these statistics controlled for race, family background, and IQ, meaning that the effects those variables may have on reducing or increasing success have been removed. This allows us to be more certain that the marital status of parents is the cause of the inequalities discussed.

family-beachWe should not be surprised. God provided an example of how children are to be raised at the beginning of time.3 Marriage is not something that God has ever taken lightly, and it’s something we should give great respect to. This doesn’t mean that everyone should be married, and that by living single people are disobeying God’s word. Paul was very clear about his position regarding marriage in his letter to the church at Corinth.4 For Paul, marriage is a potentially dangerous distraction from serving God with everything you are.5 But the equation changes when you bring children into the picture. Like with Adam and Eve, we should take this as an example of how God has decided children need to be raised.

It may be that married couples are better at raising children solely because they are two people putting in twice the effort that a single parent is capable of. There is a trend now for couples to cohabitate, either with or without the intention of eventually marrying. If it’s true that children of married couples tend to be better off than children of single parents solely because they are capable of putting forth twice the effort, then we would expect to see children raised by cohabitating couples do as well as those with married parents. However, this is not the case. Children of cohabitating parents do worse off in almost every category. On average, cohabitating couples stay together for only two years; hardly the same stable relationship exhibited with married parents.1 Only one half of cohabitating couples ever get married.1 For those couples, two thirds of them will divorce by the time their pre-marriage children are ten years old.1

This also should not come as a surprise. The same (one and only) God that created us also created the institution of marriage. Who better to know what is best for raising children than the God that created those children and knew them before they were born?6 God knew what He was doing when He instituted marriage; it is a wealth generating relationship. Two people married for life will each be four times better off than if they had remained single.1 This is the case for many reasons, including the cheaper cost of living together, the increased seriousness of the spouse(s) earning a living, and the possible division of labor.1

So, while marriage is not necessary to follow God’s word, it is beneficial in and of itself, and is necessary for raising children according to God’s word. It has long been known that God is wiser than us, and even though we may not always understand why it is, His will is always better for us. We get ourselves, and our children, into trouble when we decide that something is more convenient for us and discard the wisdom of God. While this trouble is not always immediately known or the degree to which it is harming us, it is the truth. And as the truth, when we do get real data and observations they will always affirm God’s wisdom, as it has in this case.

  1. ”Marriage in America,” Economist, May 26, 2007, 23-25. [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] []
  2. 1 Thess 2:9 []
  3. Gen 4:1 []
  4. 1 Cor 7 []
  5. 1 Cor 7:32 []
  6. Ps 139:15-16 []

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