Dads4Kids believes marriage is important for children, for adults and for society. There has been a sharp increase over the last two generations in the proportion of children who do not live with their own two married parents, spurred first largely by increases in divorce, and more recently by large jumps in unmarried or cohabiting childbearing.
Marriage has changed a great deal over the past two generations, including increased incidence and social acceptance of divorce, cohabitation, premarital sex, and unwed childbearing. Other important changes include dramatic increases in the proportion of working wives, reduced tolerance for domestic violence, and a change in gender roles.
Yet, when it comes to the benefits of marriage, research shows more impressive evidence of continuity than change or decline. Marriage is associated with powerful social goods. Overwhelming research evidence suggests that marriage increases well-being.
While marriage is a social good, not all marriages are equal. Research does not generally support the idea that remarriage is better for children than living with a single mother. Marriages that are unhappy do not have the same benefits as the average marriage.
We recognise that divorce or separation provides an important escape hatch for children and adults in violent or high-conflict marriages. But whether our society succeeds or fails in building a healthy marriage culture is clearly a matter of legitimate public concern. Comprehensive research has shown that:
- Marriage increases the likelihood that fathers have good relationships with their children.
- Cohabitation is not the functional equivalent of marriage.
- Growing up outside an intact marriage increases the likelihood that children will themselves divorce or become unwed parents.
- Marriage is a virtually universal human institution.
- Divorce and unmarried child-bearing increase poverty for both children and mothers.
- Married couples seem to build more wealth on average than singles or cohabiting couples.
- Married men earn more money than do single men with similar education and job histories.
- Parental divorce (or failure to marry) appears to increase children’s risk of school failure.
- Parental divorce reduces the likelihood that children will graduate from university and achieve high-status jobs.
- Children who live with their own two married parents enjoy better physical health, on average, than do children in other family forms.
- Parental marriage is associated with a sharply lower risk of infant mortality.
- Marriage is associated with reduced rates of alcohol and substance abuse for both adults and teens.
- Married people, especially married men, longer life expectancies than do otherwise similar singles.
- Marriage is associated with better health and lower rates of injury, illness, and disability for both men and women.
- Children whose parents divorce have higher rates of psychological distress and mental illness.
- Divorce appears to significantly increase the risk of suicide.
- Married mothers have lower rates of depression than do single or cohabiting mothers.
- Boys raised in single-parent families are more likely to engage in delinquent and criminal behaviour.
- Marriage appears to reduce the risk that adults will be either perpetrators or victims of crime.
- Married women appear to have a lower risk of experiencing domestic violence than do cohabiting or dating women.
- A child who is not living with his or her own two married parents is at greater risk of child abuse.
Here is our fundamental conclusion: Marriage is an important social good, associated with an impressively broad array of positive outcomes for children and adults alike. The Fatherhood Foundation exists to strengthen and support Australian marriage.
For more information, please read our document “21 Reasons Why Marriage Matters — Strengthening and Supporting Australian Marriage”.