Why marriage matters, in more ways than you think

By Ruth Limkin

In case you missed it, a significant report into the state of Australian young people was released last week. It’s a very sobering read.

Authored by Professor Patrick Parkinson, from the University of Sydney, and released by the Australian Christian Lobby, it is a comprehensive survey of the social environment affecting children and young people in our nation. You can download the full report, For Kid’s Sake, here.

One of the report chapters is about family stability and the wellbeing of children. It contains this quote on page 51.

“… the long-term consequences of interparental discord for children are pervasive and consistently detrimental. Poor marital quality, as well as declines in marital quality over time, are associated with problematic relationships with mothers and fathers (less affection, less consensus, less perceived support, and less help exchanged); more difficulties in dating among single offspring (fewer dates, more difficulty finding dating partners, and less happiness with current dating partner); lower marital quality among married offspring (less happiness, less interaction, more conflict, more problems, and more divorce proneness); a greater probability of offspring relationship dissolution (cohabiting relationships as well as marriages); lower social integration (less church involvement, smaller networks of close kin and friends, and less community attachment); less education; and poorer psychological well-being (greater psychological distress, lower self-esteem, less happiness, and lower life satisfaction).

These results suggest that parents’ marital unhappiness and discord have a broad negative impact on virtually every dimension of offspring well-being. … Parental divorce also appears to have negative consequences for offspring, although these are not as pervasive as the effects of parents’ marital quality… these associations are independent of predivorce conflict between parents. In other words, for these outcomes, low parental marital quality lowers offspring well-being, and parental divorce lowers it even further.” 

Further food for thought can be found in this quote, by Professor Susan Brown, on page 48:

“Over the past decade, evidence on the benefits of marriage for the well-being of children has continued to mount. Children residing in two-biological-parent married families tend to enjoy better outcomes than do their counterparts raised in other family forms. The differential is modest but consistent and persists across several domains of well-being. Children living with two biological married parents experience better educational, social, cognitive, and behavioral outcomes than do other children, on average.” 

Strong, healthy, life-giving marriages are good for the soul, and it seems, also for society.

Failing to acknowledge this hurts the least of us – our children.