Thirty reasons marriage matters more than ever

Published: Saturday, June 9 2012 10:04 p.m. MDT

According to "Why Marriage Matters, Thirty Conclusions from the Social Sciences," a report from the Institute for American Values and the National Marriage Project, in the latter half of the 20th century, divorce posed the biggest threat to marriage in the United States.

"No more," says the report. "Today, the rise of cohabiting households with children is the largest unrecognized threat to the quality and stability of children's family lives."

The study analyzes the impact of cohabitation on the family and specifically children based on recent scholarship.

The report is broken down into 30 conclusions, which make up the bulk of this list. These conclusions can be subscribed to five fundamental themes.

1. Children are less likely to thrive in cohabiting households, compared to intact, married families.

2. Family instability is generally bad for children.

3. American family life is becoming increasingly unstable for children.

4. The growing instability of American family life also means that contemporary adults and children are more likely to live in what scholars call "complex households."

5. The nation's retreat from marriage has hit poor and working-class communities with particular force.

The full report can be downloaded as a PDF or purchased as a booklet from The Institute for American Values website.

Related article: Family structure counts

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Old Jake
Salt Lake City, UT

Lazy and uncommitted people make for lame parents.


Marriage equality, or in other words same sex marriage, constitutes a complex household.

Brian H.
Provo, UT

This isn't very good research - it's not even peer reviewed. The best scholars in family studies agree that family structure makes no difference for children's well being. Sure, it's well established that the married two-biological parent household is strongly correlated with economic advantages, family stability and educational achievement, but most of that correlation is due to selection effects. The people that are most likely to earn a high income are also the ones who are most likely to marry rather than cohabit, etc. Cohabitation and single parenthood are hugely disproportionate among low-education and low-SES groups, so it's really the lack of resources that affects children, not family structure per se. The families with fewest resources are more likely to experience instability in their families. Even relatively conservative scholars like Andrew Cherlin (favors marriage) don't say that family structure causes poorer outcomes for children. This research is completely bogus according to academic standards. If I was a reviewer at one of the top family journals, I'd reject this outright.

Provo, UT

I agree that it it is weak on the surface, but then I went to the Institute for American Values website and saw the 20 pages of endnotes backing the group's findings. I was reading today in Family Routines and Rituals by Barbara Fiese. In the book she concludes that poverty has an undetermined effect on the salience of family rituals, (and therefore stability of a home.) Strong correlation was found for unity and symbols. What counts most in family is structure.
Strong negative correlations to salience were found in the loss that results from a change in household dynamics. Change can be a major disruption of family. Recognizing resources/educational attainment as important to family dynamics- ok. Basing an argument for family stability on resources/attainment alone? I don't think so.


Brian H. you need sources. I've never seen a good study that concludes "family structure makes no difference for a child's well-being." As to your assertion that "it's really the lack of resources, not family structure per se", perhaps you missed conclusion #3, "The benefits of marriage extend to poor, working-class and minority communities." I don't know why you are instantly condemning this article, I'm sure you have your reasons, but that is no excuse for being a lazy reader. But perhaps I'm making assumptions. Perhaps you did not actually read the entire article. In which case I apologize for insinuating that you have poor reading comprehension skills. Still no excuse for comments that are clearly addressed in the article.

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