Tag Archives: marriage statistics

Choose Exciting over Pleasant Activities to Boost Marriage

Exciting activities improve marital satisfaction much more than pleasant activities. A new study by the Interpersonal Relationships Laboratory of New York State University showed that a group of couples who spent two hours each week engaging in a new, exciting activity gave a dramatic boost to their marital satisfaction. A second group who engaged in highly pleasant, but only moderately exciting, activities, showed no significant change in their perceived marriage quality.

I found the results interesting, because I would have expected at least some reported improvement in both groups. However, I’m not surprised the first group with their novel experiences created stronger results. This is because previous research has focused on the hormone oxytocin that is released when a couple falls in love, has sex, or shares novel, exciting experiences together. This hormone helps a couple bond and feel all lovey-dovey. In addition, if you are learning about or experiencing something new together, you are united in your goal of accomplishment. It can be exhilarating to enjoy a new experience or learn something challenging together.

As many married couples find it difficult to keep their passion alive, the study is a great reminder to focus at least some of our attention on how to keep things exciting. It can be a bit daunting, however, for those of us who don’t spend much time climbing mountains or exploring underwater caves. So, it’s important to find something you both would find enjoyable, new and exciting.

The study authors had couples make a list of things they would like to do that are exciting. This is a perfect starting point for you. Make a list, and rate each activity 1-10 for pleasantness and excitement. Find something that you both find moderately pleasant but high on the excitement scale.

You might consider:
• Travel to a new, exciting destination
• Learning a new language together
• An outdoor activity, such as zip lining, biking in a challenging terrain, training together for a mini marathon.
• Taking a cooking or dancing class
• Getting a couples massage
• Talking about, and experimenting with new techniques in the bedroom (or buying an enticing, sexy new garment)
• Going to a rock concert or venue you wouldn’t normally attend
• Surprise each other occasionally with a gift or a date night
• Go on a marriage retreat or a weekend getaway
• Brainstorm ideas that fit your interests and area of the world—scuba diving, hiking in the mountains, skiing, camping—but only activities that are NEW for you, not what you find yourself doing over and over again.
• Learning a new skill together—photography, pottery making (remember that scene in Ghost?!), a musical instrument, race car driving, flying an airplane

Married life doesn’t have to be dull. What makes affairs exciting is the notion of getting to know someone attractive and new, going to new places, trying new activities, and having new sexual experiences. Have an affair with your own spouse, and experience these exhilarating feelings in the safety of your own marriage. Maybe you do your hair differently, or put at attractive outfit together. Then, go do something really fun together, and enjoy the boost in your marriage. There’s no excuse for saying married life is boring.

What’s the most exciting thing you have done lately as a couple?

Interesting Links:

Bikinis or briefs? Read a new study that proves bad underwear can ruin your day. Really. So, choose your panties carefully, and it may improve your life and make you feel sexier and more confident. Your hubby may also appreciate this.

Divorce’s Impact on Teens. More than half of American teens (55%) do NOT live with their married mother and father. Using United States Census Bureau data from 2008, a study revealed that 62 percent of Asian-American teens live in two-parent households, compared to 54 percent of whites, 41 percent of multiracial background, 40 percent of Hispanics, 24 percent of American Indians or Alaskan Natives, and 17 percent of African-Americans.

Walk through effects of Divorce. A new program in Britain—the country with the highest divorce rates in Europe—suggests that couples on the brink of divorce confront the realities how divorce would impact their family before taking the next step. It’s based on an educational program in Norway that has been effective at keeping families together.

Do you believe in soul mates? This marital therapist at Psychology Today does not, and says the idea alone contributes to relationship failures. She says too many people leave their marriage then they decide they have finally met their “true” soul mate, who ends up not being so ideal in the end.

Photo credit: © Maxim Petrichuk/PhotoXpress.com

Alcohol Use Related to Shorter and Later Marriages

It’s not just alcoholics whose relationships may be affected by drinking. A new study by the Indiana University School of Education found that individuals who frequently drink alcohol are more likely to marry later in life and are less likely to have a successful, long-lasting marriage.

Researchers recruited more than 4,000 Australian twins in the early 1980s and followed their alcohol use and marriages or separations. They found a strong association between alcohol dependence and delayed marriage, as well as between alcohol dependence and early marital separation.

The study’s author made a surprisingly strong statement to young people about the consequences of alcohol in their lives:

“Young adults who drink alcohol may want to consider the longer-term consequences for marriage,” says Mary Waldron, assistant professor at IU. “If drinking continues or increases to levels of problem use, likelihood of marriage, or of having a lasting marriage, may decrease.”

The results were reported in Science Daily and are to be released in the April 2011 issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

Early drinking is one of the best predictors of later alcohol dependence, according to researchers. They also found genetic influences contributed to the associations between alcohol dependence and delayed marriage or early separation.

The results aren’t terribly surprising when you consider how significant alcohol use could cause a great deal of conflict in a relationship and deaden one’s ability to become intimate with a partner. But the articles I’ve seen don’t specify an amount of alcohol. I’d be curious whether “frequent drinking” includes a nightly glass of wine, or if heavier drinking was involved in these associations.

Do you know any frequent drinkers who delayed marriage to continue their partying lifestyle? Are you surprised at the associations made with alcohol use? Do you think those living the lifestyle of frequent drinking will even care about this research?

Interesting links:

Understanding Your Relationship’s Problems–Michele Weiner-Davis, author of the book and blog Divorce Busting, provides a fascinating analogy to help couples understand the interdependence of their actions and reactions on their relationships. There’s a circular causality that is hard for individuals to see, particularly when they believe their mate is to blame for the marriage’s problems. Read The Foxes and the Rabbits for some great explanation and examples that can open your eyes to new solutions in conflict resolution.

Financial Fidelity–We’ve talked about financial infidelity here before, and why it’s important to be trustworthy with one another about money. Nearly 1/3 of spouses admit to deceiving their partner about financial matters. Thanks to Paul Byerly for pointing me to an excellent article in Forbes, Is Your Partner Cheating on You Financially. There’s also a link to signs your spouse is lying about money. It serves as a reminder to have open, honest discussions about finances.

Photo credit: ©Galina Barshaya/PhotoXpress.com

Does Marriage Benefit Adults or Just Children?

Do you believe the institution of marriage has outlived its value in modern society?

As a followup to the post on “Marriage Haves” and “Have Nots”, which cited a data-rich article in National Affairs, researcher David Lapp has drawn some very interesting conclusions to the data in his brief, yet eloquent, column with The Witherspoon Institute called, “Marriage as Friendship.” It is definitely worth the read to understand the answer to his crucial question: Is the institution of marriage good for adults, and if so, why? The answers and evidence are thought-provoking and may surprise you.

While marriage has been shown to be beneficial to children, Lapp considers whether we have evidence that it is also beneficial to adults. He divides marriage into two types. The first is the institutional marriage model, which is a lifelong endeavor that seeks to create “the best kind of friendship” bound together by virtue and common good. The second type is the soul-mate model, which prioritizes the adults’ emotional wellbeing and depends on mutual emotional satisfaction.

Lapp brings up many of the common arguments against marriage to determine if they have merit. Without giving away too much detail, following is one of Lapp’s conclusions:

“The institutional model doesn’t guarantee that every married person will thrive, but it does secure marriage to a more solid foundation than utility or pleasure. For adults searching for love, then, the institutional model of marriage is hardly a sentence to slavery, but rather an invitation to the good life.”

What do you think about the “Marriage as Friendship” model? Are you living what he describes as the good life?

Deciding to Remarry? Put Kids First.

When can widowed or divorced individuals feel ready to remarry? It’s such an individual decision, but when one or both partners already have young children, their needs should factor highly in the decision.

In the movies it seems there’s always a lonely 5-year-old living with his/her Mom or Dad just waiting for that perfect stepparent to come along and complete their family. Thankfully for many families, a second marriage can be a great blessing for adults and children. But in some cases, kids may prefer having their parent’s attention all to themselves and may fear losing that attention when a love interest enters the picture.

Unfortunately, second marriages fail at a higher rate than first marriages, with children from a previous marriage causing the most conflict. (Remarriage failure rates available here.)  Experts say more second marriages fail because so many happen on the rebound. They don’t know each other well enough, aren’t thinking clearly, and are too set in their ways, according to Robert Kirby of the Salt Lake Tribune.

Any good parent clearly wants their child to be comfortable with a potential spouse, but they may feel they have to make decisions for their own happiness as well. I would agree that children don’t always know what is best for the family. However, parents considering remarrying should know their potential spouse extremely well, and should consider the sad fact that living with a stepparent is the most significant risk factor in severe child abuse.

That fact aside, there are other considerations as well, such as siblings who may enter the blended family and their potential impact on your child. A colleague of mine (whom we’ll call Lisa) met a great guy 5 ½ years ago through Match.com. After six months of dating, they knew they were right for each other. (In addition to common values and goals, they had also been cheated on by their spouses and despite their efforts to save their marriages, both of their spouses chose to leave.)

A major stumbling block for them was joining their two households; he had custody of a 12- and 9-year old boy and girl, and she had custody of a 5-year old girl. Despite their best efforts, Lisa felt the oldest son’s difficult and jealous behavior would negatively impact her daughter. In addition, she feared the stress from the “drama” that would likely follow their wedding could make starting a marriage difficult.

So, she gave the engagement ring back. How many people would be willing to put their dreams on hold, wondering if their fiancé would move on? “It’s hard, because you want to be together, but you have to do what’s best for your kids,” Lisa says. She and her fiancé continued to date exclusively, and he understood her concerns.

Unfortunately, her fiancé’s two children did end up getting into substantial trouble (one was jailed twice for drug use), although as they have matured, they have started to straighten out. They have since chosen to live with their mother, who had abandoned them for nine years. 

Lisa recently married her fiancé, with all three children present and supportive. She is glad she waited, because “the impact on my daughter would have been horrible. I don’t think she’d be the wonderful, well-adjusted kid she is today if I had married then. It may have tainted her outlook on life or taken some of her innocence away,” Lisa says. However, she adds, “Part of me wonders if his kids might have benefited more if we had gotten married and I had more influence on them—but I’m not entirely sure I would have been able to deal with it.” Now that his kids are maturing, they have thanked her for some of the positive influence she was able to provide.

Lisa says there is another benefit to waiting to marry. “Marrying someone because you’re head-over-heels in love is easy to do, because you don’t see their flaws. When you wait five years, you see everything. You know their downfalls and strong points and have to be willing to live with all of it.”

What do you think? Should adults choose when and whom they will marry, then work on integrating the families, or if they have young children, should their needs be considered first?

Prospects Strong for those Wishing to Marry Later

Two decades ago, Newsweek magazine joked that a 40-year-old single woman was “more likely to be killed by a terrorist” than ever marry. Though the comment was made in jest, it stuck and was often cited. However, even the not-joking marriage probability rating they offered for a 35-year-old woman was only 5 percent. The story induced quite a lot anxiety, which, it turns out, wasn’t warranted.

While fewer married in their 20s, the rate of women who eventually marry was much higher than expected, according to Newsweek.com’s Marriage by the Numbers. Some trends that did pan out as expected were the higher rates of cohabitation and the emergence and growth of single mothers by choice.

The biggest marriage shift for women has been to wait longer to marry. Additionally, marriage rates for better educated women is much higher than for women with lower levels of education. While the old stereotype said that women who excelled professionally may have been less appealing or “overqualified” as spouses, a 2001 Princeton study shows that college degrees make a woman more likely to marry, not less so. The trend is so pronounced that researchers now worry “that marriage, which confers a host of economic, tax and child-rearing advantages, is becoming disproportionately reserved for better-educated, middle- and upper-class elites.”

Many of today’s 30-somethings are less alarmed today if they haven’t found the perfect mate, says the article. Odds are, in fact much better for those in their 30’s and 40’s who wish to marry to find a spouse than had been assumed. Approximately 90 percent of baby-boomers have married or will marry. In 1960, half of women married by 20. Now, many more women are waiting to finish college and at least begin their careers. As of 1996, a single 40-year-old woman had about a 41 percent chance of marrying. Those odds have increased to just under 50 percent. Today, the median age for a first marriage is 25 for women and 27 for men.

While most of the research focused on women, because data on them was more available, men’s attitudes toward marriage have also changed over time. Both genders of Gen-Xers are said to have a greater commitment to marriage because so many watched their parents divorce. Many men openly seek a wife as much as the reverse. Women are also considering younger men, where previously that was more taboo.

Newsweek revisited 11 of the 14 single 20-something women who were interviewed for the original story. Eight are married, including a pediatrician who met her husband while hiking the Badlands and married at 45. Some said they wished they had found their spouses earlier, especially when battling infertility. Three remained single, one whose fiancée died, another who chose to adopt as a single woman. None who married divorced.

Are you still looking for the perfect spouse? Do you think it helps that people are marrying later in life when they are more mature and established? What are your predictions for future marriage rates? (Or, would you prefer we ignore these predictive statistics entirely?)

For the full Newsweek article, visit: http://www.newsweek.com/id/52295/

Number of Unwed Mothers Rises Sharply in U.S. & Worldwide

When I see my children with their father, I can’t imagine their lives without him there on a daily basis. The bond they share is as close as theirs to me, but it’s different in many ways. Fathers provide not only a vital role in child rearing, but also in supporting and assisting mothers and in demonstrating to children how a man should treat a woman. Apparently in the U.S., fewer and fewer children are enjoying this important bond with their fathers.

The number of children being born to single mothers has risen sharply in recent years, according to The Washington Post. This trend is being attributed not to teen parents, but to women in their 20s and 30s who are choosing to have children without being married. Nearly 40% (4 of every 10 births) are now to unmarried women, up from 18% in 1980.

Some causal factors being discussed include a lower social stigma associated with unmarried motherhood, an increase in cohabitation and delaying of marriage, and an increase in financially independent and older women deciding to have children on their own (for instance after delaying having children until their career was established).

The Post cited some experts giving positive reasons more women are now single mothers, for instance in the past more were compelled to give up children for adoption or coerced into abortions, and now pregnancy to a single mother is common. Other experts said “the trend is disturbing because children who grow up without stable, two-parent families tend not to fare as well.” (Just a note: I think it’s clear there are many single moms who do an excellent job given a difficult set of circumstances, and they should be acknowledged.) 

Worldwide, this trend is even more apparent, according to USA Today. In Northern European countries, marriage rates are substantially lower than in the U.S. Iceland has the highest number of out-of-wedlock births, with 6 in 10 births to unmarried women. There are some differences between the U.S. and other countries, however. “U.S. mothers are more likely to be single parents because the non-married relationship doesn’t tend to last very long,” says demographer Patrick Heuveline, so many more of these children in the U.S. are born to single mothers without fathers present. In European countries these births tend to be in two-parent cohabitations, to parents who are in a stable union but unmarried.

How do you react to these statistics? How do you think these trends will affect the next generation of Americans? Does marriage provide any value to society or is it a dying institution? Do you think fathers are vital or optional to children’s upbringing?

Is the Government Stimulating Your Marriage?

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services is funding a new campaign aimed to promote the benefits of marriage to young adults. Benefits being touted include better health, greater wealth and increased happiness for those who marry, and improved wellbeing for their children.  While they aren’t telling anyone to run out and get married, the campaign’s goal is to encourage individuals in their 20s not to underestimate the benefits of marriage.

Declining marriage rates haven’t gone unnoticed by the government. Just released statistics report that in 1986, there were 10 marriages per 1,000 people; in 2008 that declined to 7.1 marriages per 1,000.

The $5 million national media campaign is to launch this month using online ads, YouTube video, radio shows, bus and subway ads. A new web site has also been launched, twoofus.org, which provides relationship tips and advice with different sections for couples who are dating, engaged, married and for parents. The web site compiles advice from a variety of relationship and marriage experts and includes podcasts, articles, video and audio.

Of course there is some controversy over using these funds to promote marriage, especially when our country is faced with so many problems at present. While I sympathize with those who say the money needs to be redirected to help fight poverty, I believe that stronger families can better equip our country for the future and can help us ride out the tough times. Research clearly shows that in general children are healthier, safer, better educated and less likely to live in poverty when raised in an intact married family. It also shows that married adults are more likely to be healthier and happier and financially better off when they are married.  (See previous posts for details.)

The bigger question is will young adults—a fiercely independent group—pay attention to the ads? Proponents say they have used public campaigns successfully to change behavior in the past, such as using seat-belts or avoiding smoking or drugs. Time will tell if the campaign will be effective. The campaign budget is at risk of cuts from the new administration due to the worsening economy, so it may not even have time to work.

What do you think? Should the government stay out of our private lives, or is this investment important? Do you think the campaign is a good use of money, or will it fall on deaf ears?

Is Brad Pitt right?

This morning on the Today Show, Brad Pitt briefly discussed his family, including long-time girlfriend Angelina Jolie and their six adoptive children. When asked if he planned to marry Angie, he said if they determine it would benefit their children, they would do so. Well, here’s some evidence that could change the mind of people wondering if long-term cohabitation is as good a choice as marriage for families with children.

Hopefully, most Americans aren’t modeling their lives after Hollywood celebrities, but cohabitation is becoming more common, so the issue is worth discussing. Marriage is not just a financial decision; it is not just a decision of the heart. It involves these things of course, but when children are involved, they should also be considered.  So, today’s post is dedicated to studies showing how children are affected by marriage—emotionally, behaviorially, sexually, mentally, and physically. I would be happy to send you more details on any of these studies.

Research shows that in the U.S. cohabitators resemble singles more than they resemble married couples. Their unions are much less stable. One study showed that half of the children born to a cohabitating couple saw their parents split by the time they were five. The number was even higher for Latino or African-Americans. For married couples, 15% split in the same time period.

Another study found that even after controlling for socioeconomic and parenting factors, teenagers who lived in cohabiting households experienced more behavioral and emotional difficulties than those in intact, married families.

A study found married parents devote more of their financial resources to childrearing and education than do cohabiting parents, whereas cohabiting parents spent a larger percentage of their income on alcohol and tobacco. In the study, cohabiting couples had lower incomes and education levels. They also reported more conflict and violence and lower satisfaction levels.

Marriage has not only social effects on children, but also biosocial consequences. For example, girls appear to have their sexual development affected by male pheromones, which either accelerate or decelerate their development, depending on their family situation. Studies have shown that adolescent girls who do not grow up in an intact married home are more likely to menstruate early. On the other hand, girls “who have close, engaged relationships with their fathers” begin menstruation at a later age. Girls who live with an unrelated male menstruate even earlier than those living with single mothers. Researchers believe the father’s pheromones appear to inhibit sexual development, while an unrelated male accelerates her development. When a girl has earlier sexual development, she is more likely to become sexually active earlier and is at higher risk of teen pregnancies.

Boys also benefit from married parents. Boys in unmarried families carry out more delinquent acts. Boys in single-parent homes are about twice as likely, and boys in stepfamilies are 2½ times more likely, to commit a crime leading to jail time by their 30s. Boys in cohabiting families have been found to be more likely to be involved in delinquent behavior, cheating, and have more school suspensions. When a boy lives with his mother and her boyfriend, the boyfriend is more likely to be abusive than his own father. This leads to additional problems.

Additional research has suggested children with two married parents have better health and a longer life expectancy than other children.  This benefit starts in infancy, and remains a lifelong benefit.

It is tempting to suggest the difference is due to socioeconomic status or education levels. But many studies account for these factors. One such study followed academically gifted, middle-class children for 70 years. Researchers controlled for family background and childhood health status, and even personality characteristics. They found children of divorce had life expectancy reduced by four years. They also found that 40-year-old men whose parents had divorced were three times more likely to die in the next 40 years than were 40-year-old men whose parents remained married.

Even babies have a lower risk of mortality when born to married parents than if they are born to unmarried parents. The average increase in infant mortality is 50% for unmarried women. After controlling for age, race and education, infants with unwed mothers still have a higher mortality rate, even through early childhood years.

Sweden has a national health care system for all its citizens. But a study of the entire Swedish population showed boys who lived in single-parent homes were more than 50% more likely to die of various causes (i.e. suicide, accidents, addiction) than those in a married, two-parent home. Boys and girls in single-parent families were more than twice as likely to have problems with drug or alcohol abuse, psychiatric diseases, suicide attempts. They were also more likely to experience poisonings, traffic injuries or falls than teens in two-parent families.

Yet another U.S. study shows teens who live with their married parents are less likely to experiment to drugs alcohol or tobacco than other teens—even after controlling for age, race, gender, and family income.

Mental health of children was also affected when parents split up. Children of divorce have double the risk of serious psychological problems later in life than children with parents who stay married. They are more likely to suffer from depression, drug and alcohol abuse, or suicidal thoughts.  The exception is when a marriage has “high and sustained” conflict levels, children benefit psychologically if the parents divorce.

I could write many more examples, but I imagine you get the picture that marriage has been shown in lots of research to protect children in myriad ways. Let me just share the most shocking statistics for those of you still with me. It is hard to imagine for parents who love their children (and stepchildren), but children who do not live with their own two parents are at much higher risk of child abuse. Living with a stepparent is the most significant factor in severe child abuse. Children are more than 50 times more likely to be murdered by a stepparent (usually a stepfather) than by a biological parent. A different study showed children were 40 times more likely to be sexually abused than one living with both of his biological parents. A national study found that 7% of children who lived with one parent had been sexually abused, compared to 4% of children who live with both parents.

With this research in mind, do you believe marriage has a social benefit for children?

 

Information on these studies can be found in “Why Marriage Matters, Second Edition” by Institute for American Values, or send a request to me and I will send you details on the individual study.

Is Marriage Good for your Health?

Lots of people seem to run from the idea of marriage as if it may cause them financial and physical ruin. As I alluded to in previous posts, there are actually many documented benefits of marriage—physical, mental and economic among others. I wouldn’t suggest getting married just to cash in on these benefits, mind you, but engaged and married couples might be happy to know these facts. And those fearful of marriage might find it eases fears.

 

It’s clear that I have a pro-marriage perspective. However, let me say up front that I realize that not all divorces can or should be prevented, especially if any kind of abuse is occurring. My intent is to provide positive information about marriage.

 

In the interest of brevity, I will touch on just a few physical benefits of marriage. I’d be happy to share more details if you are interested. Next time, I’ll share some surprising health benefits that married parents provide to their children.

 

For the adults:

1)    Married people live longer than similar individuals who are single or divorced, even after factoring in income, race and background. (This is true for women, but there’s an even stronger correlation for men.)

2)    Men and women who are married have lower rates of substance abuse and alcohol consumption than unmarried individuals, even after controlling for genetic factors and family background.

3)    Married individuals have a much lower rate of suicide than those who divorce. Men and women who divorce are tragically twice as likely as married individuals to attempt suicide. Married women have lower rates of suicide than divorced, widowed or never-married women.

4)    Married men and women are on average healthier than single, divorced or cohabiting individuals. Researchers don’t know if this is because healthier people get married or because marriage helps them to stay healthier. However, they do know on average married couples live healthier lifestyles, monitor one another’s health and have more wealth, which all probably contribute to better health. A large study of retired individuals showed much less disease and impairment in married individuals than widowed, divorced or cohabiting individuals, after controlling for age, race and sex. A caveat here is that better quality marriages led to better health outcomes! Stress inside or outside a marriage is never good for one’s health.

 

What do you think—is marriage good for your health or is it irrelevant? Why?

 

 

Sources:

Marital Status and Health: United States, 1999-2002.

Why Marriage Matters, Second Edition by Institute for American Values.

“Mortality Differentials by Marital Status: An International Comparison,” Demography 1990.