Families where marriage comes after birth, if it comes at all, are more likely to be unstable, impoverished and include absentee fathers, she said.
"The father issue is pretty huge," said Busby, adding that when couple relationships break apart, "the first thing to go is contact with the father." The men, he said, "have a hard time staying engaged when they are not in the home. Many, many children — close to half — are raised for a significant amount of time without a father at home." Some men disengage themselves, while others are "sort of blockaded" by women who don't want to continue to deal with the men after the relationship has broken up. Regardless of why men become absent in children's lives, there are many implications, especially for a next generation that will become fathers themselves without having a father role model.
The No. 1 thing that youths tell family researchers, said Busby, is the importance to them of pursuing economic stability, even above family relationships. "Somewhere between my generation and now," he said, "finances became the central issue. That's one of the most alarming trends, that people who are poor feel shut out of marriage. So instead of marrying, they live together and have children, which is what they felt they needed the money for in the first place. In some ways, traditional marriage when you're a little younger, before the children come, is now more an upper-class phenomenon."
Financial pressures have changed the pattern of family life in America. Over several decades, women have increasingly entered the workforce to shore up family finances. America has also experienced a well-studied shift that has low-income families eschewing marriage until they're economically stable. That stability becomes less of a sure thing, though, because marriage itself is a foundation from which couples can work together to build economic security, say such experts as W. Bradford Wilcox of the National Marriage Project.
The benefits of marriage for those with lower incomes was also seen recently by researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles. Their study, published in the Journal of Marriage and Family, said "efforts to save low-income marriages should directly confront the economic and social realities these couples face," such as money problems or substance abuse.
In his talk on Saturday, Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve said couples would be better off financially if they followed "two basic and fixed principles" the church uses in its operations: "First, the church lives within its means and does not spend more than it receives. Second, a portion of the annual income is set aside as a reserve for contingencies and unanticipated needs."
The church also had taught its members for decades to set "aside additional food, fuel and money to take care of emergencies that may arise," he said.
The UCLA study found those whose household income is up to 200 percent of the federal poverty guideline, based on income and family size, place as high a value on marriage as those with higher incomes and have nearly identical romantic standards. They do not have unrealistically high standards.
So marriage remains important to most Americans. The differences between those who are marrying and experiencing more stability and those who aren't are external stressors like finances and problem behaviors like substance abuse or infidelity.
Elder Nelson addressed some of the challenges to secure families as he spoke of self-mastery as a "pivotal spiritual attribute" that builds conscience, which determines how one handles difficulties, temptations and trying situations. Mastering appetites has profound impact on addictions, from substance abuse to pornography. Infidelity is directly related to how one handles one's appetites. Those are all issues that hurt families.
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