Who Needs Marriage? Children Do

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As reported in Time Magazine's November 18th cover story, according to a new Pew Research Center nationwide survey, a growing number of Americans believe that "marriage, whatever its social, spiritual, or symbolic appeal, is in purely practical terms just not as necessary as it used to be."

The claim raises the question, "not necessary for whom?"

The Future of Children's Fragile Families study, referenced in Time's feature, Who Needs Marriage?, suggests that for some, and particularly for children, marriage is more necessary than ever.

And despite the more general findings that Americans believe that marriage is unnecessary for a host of issues, when it comes to raising kids, more than three-quarters say it's best done married.

As The Future of Children: Fragile Families journal explains, fragile families - defined as couples who are unmarried when their children are born - face greater risks than more traditional families, which can have negative consequences on child wellbeing. Simply put, stable, two parent homes have greater monetary and emotional resources to support their children's development. And in the United States, marriage has the greatest chance of achieving relationship stability which leads to stability for children.

So where do we go from here?

The Future of Children Fragile Families journal shows that, contrary to popular belief, most unwed parents have close and loving relationships at the time of their child's birth. However, at five years after birth only 35 percent of unwed parents are still together. These first moments in a child's life present a unique opportunity to work with couples to strengthen unwed parents' relationship and parenting skills.

At the Brookings Institution Fragile Families launch on October 27, 2010, a young man summarized the impact of such program participation on his views about children and marriage.

"When we went to this class, and I listened to the statistics about the married couples and the unmarried couples and how much it would benefit my child for us to be married, I took advantage of that. I want my child to be raised to be a man, and I love my girlfriend. It was a no-brainer, but it really took learning about my child's future to help me put it together."

While a growing number of Americans may view marriage as a dying institution, its benefits for children are clear. As our nation's poverty rate continues to climb, preventing and strengthening fragile families will become increasingly important.

For more information on fragile families and our policy recommendations to support them, please go to The Future of Children's full volume on Fragile Families.

7 Comments

Kids absolutely need their parents to be married and in a happy home. This is why it is up to the parents to act like adults and in the best interest of the family especially when things just are not going right and they feel like they are approaching a melt down.

Yes, children need their parents to be married. But they also need their parents to engage in all the other parenting behaviors and practices generally recognized as supporting the healthy physical, emotional, and intellectual development of chidlren, and reject all of the parenting behaviors and practices generally recognized as disrupting the healthy development of children.

The question that begs answering is...How do we improve the quality of parenting in our communities?

Healthy marriage is good for children.


Marriage is a wonderful framework for a nurturing, challenging, and intimate relationship between two people. But some folks just are not up for the challenge. For those couples who have children and are unwed the quality of their relationship is as important as it is in a married couple with children situation.

The Fragile Families issue discusses the Role of Parental Relationship Quality and in it agrees there is a link in the quality of parent relationship and child outcomes. This is where I feel there needs to be extra effort put forth by the parents in a fragile family situation.

Promoting marriage is not the best served goal for those service groups interacting with the unwed parents. It is better to show how to improve the quality of their relationship with the other parent, regardless of marriage. So much can be accomplished when two parents can communicate.

I have not seen consistent evidence that married couples with children have a greater occurrence of a quality relationship with their spouse. They too endanger the outcome of the children as well as the unwed couple. The fragile family couple possibly creates poorer outcomes for the children, mainly because they often stop working together and stop sharing resources.

Personally, I love the idea of being married and working together with my partner to grow individually and as a family unit. Until that happens for me, my highest priority is to maintain a respectful, friendly relationship with my daughter’s father. She is a flourishing 8 year old; nothing yet tells me she suffers any ill effects of being a product of divorced parents.

Have you posted this article somewhere else, I'm sure I've read it before somewhere

Yes - the blog has been picked up by many media sites. Please see our Publication page for some of the places that have picked it up (Psychology Today, etc.)

More proof that gays and lesbians that are raising children (and they are), should be allowed to get married "for the sake of the children".

According to a new study children who play musical instruments are more sensitive to sounds, including speech of the people and, consequently, increasing their ability to learn new languages​​.
Tests showed the benefits of exposing children to music, including those who are autistic or who have dyslexia. Researchers have established, then, a link between the "musical ear" and the ability of the nervous system to absorb any sound.

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