Brad Wilcox: Marriage Benefits Society, but It’s in Retreat

May 12, 2016 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

Yesterday’s post on the abysmal piece by Karol Markowicz intentionally omitted one thing (Heat Street, 5/6/16). In addition to her virulent misandry that led her to denigrate not just fathers generally, but her own husband – the father of her children – in particular, Markowicz got the following just plain wrong.

Being a mom has changed me completely. It’s not just the corny “I’ve never felt this kind of love” thing which, obviously, is true. It changed the way I am in the world. I have a gravitational pull toward home that precludes me from going too far or staying away too long. I’m more interested in what my son drew at school than I am in world affairs. I think more about my daughter’s social calendar than my own. And that’s not even getting into the physical changes that motherhood has wrought.

My husband gets to stay mostly the same man he was, and that’s in large part because of me.

Now, much of what I wrote yesterday made the point that, in her own self-preoccupation, Markowicz simply misses a lot of what her husband does for her and their kids every day. In addition to being a hands-on parent, he provides if not all, then most of the family income that’s indispensable to their children’s well-being and to Markowicz’s chosen lifestyle. So it’s no surprise she made the above statement.  Or that it’s wrong.

Here’s the excellent Brad Wilcox of the University of Virginia to explain (Prager University, 5/9/16).

Not only does Markowicz’s misandry lead her to ignore her husband’s contributions to their family, it blinds her to the changes he went through when he married her and when he became a father. Fortunately for all, Wilcox knows better. Far from her husband staying “mostly the same man he was,” marriage and kids likely transformed him.

Briefly, Wilcox’s message is that (a) marriage is good for men, (b) marriage is good for women, (c) marriage is good for society, (d) marriage is good for the economy and, despite (a) – (d), marriage rates in the U.S. are declining. Scrupulous observer that he is, Wilcox is correct on all of the above. His point is to acquaint viewers with the facts about marriage and to raise the alarm about the direction our society is taking. Good for him.

I would like to take his arguments a step further, but first I’ll give more detail on what he says.

Marriage has a transformative effect on the behavior, emotional health, financial well-being of adults, especially men…

Men who get married work harder and more strategically and earn more than their single peers from similar backgrounds…

Men settle down if they get married; if they don’t get married, they don’t settle down…

And men who marry spend less of their time in bars and more time with their families and in church than do their unmarried counterparts. These facts hold true across all categories of race, ethnicity, education and other variables.

Married men, particularly fathers, tend to work harder and longer, commit less crime, drink less, use illicit drugs less and have fewer emotional/psychological problems than do their unmarried and non-father peers. The simple fact is, as Wilcox states, that marriage and children transform men. Those men tend to be more responsible in every way than their unmarried peers. In short, marriage and fatherhood is what every sane, stable society wants of its men in order to remain that way.

And yet, as Wilcox says, in the U.S., marriage is “in retreat.” In 1960, 72% of people over the age of 18 were married. Today, only 49% are, a decline of about one-third. And the age of first marriage for men has increased in that time from 23 years to 29. That’s six additional years in which young men have not undergone the transformation to responsible adults that marriage tends to produce.

Of course, there’s an answer to everything Wilcox says: “Fine, but for men, marriage and children are a dangerous bargain. They’re an open invitation to a life of heartache, enslaved to a state child support enforcement authority that offers two alternatives, money or jail. And that’s true whether or not you get to see your child. Those responsible married men you talk about bond with their kids, only to see them taken away by family courts who neither know nor care about what fathers do for their families or fathers’ welfare. In short, if you’re a man, marriage and children are for chumps.”

Who can argue? Who wants to put all his emotional eggs into the marriage-and-kids basket, only to see a disgruntled ex walk off with it for any or no reason? Who wants to transform himself into a responsible, caring, high-earning man when a single word from his wife can destroy it all? Why not stay as you are and not be saddled with child support and alimony payments to a woman who can’t stand the sight of you and doesn’t let you see your kids?

Those are tough questions to answer. The response that, if you marry and have kids, maybe it won’t happen to you, just isn’t enough for a lot of savvy young men who look at what so many dads go through and don’t want any part of it. Marriage may be transformative for men, but so is divorce. Divorced men tend to lose their kids, their sense of self-worth, a lot of their assets, and their earnings for years to come, sometimes until they die. The suicide rate for divorced fathers is about six times what it is for other men. Sound enticing? Not to a lot of guys.

Wilcox is right, but so is my hypothetical man answering him. Marriage and children benefit men, women and society. So why does public policy so powerfully discourage men from marrying and encourage women to divorce? With all the benefits to the body politic that marriage brings, you’d think public policy would bend heaven and earth to promote it. But it does the opposite. At every turn it encourages divorce, offering some pretty handsome rewards to anyone, but particularly mothers, who takes the plunge.

For decades now, we have, for the first time in history, told women that single motherhood is just as good as the married kind. That’s a lie. Single mothers are poorer, more discontented and their children are worse off than are married moms. But the removal of the stigma of out-of-wedlock childbearing plus no-fault divorce have caused a spike in unmarried childbearing that’s now about seven times what it was 50 years ago.

That family courts often marginalize fathers in their children’s lives, ensuring that mothers don’t lose their children encourages mothers to divorce. Seventy percent of divorce actions are filed by mothers for that very reason. No-fault divorce means that the legal procedure can be quick, easy and virtually painless. Child support and alimony offer sometimes bountiful inducements to mothers to divorce their husbands and not remarry.

This is the law; it’s public policy. Given its active discouragement of marriage and promotion of divorce, it’s somewhat astonishing that the marriage rate, that’s been declining for years, isn’t even lower than it is. As Wilcox demonstrates, we know what we should be doing, but we’re doing the opposite. We’re doing our dead level best to destroy the family, all the while acknowledging that the family is the bedrock of every human society.

I call that insane. It looks like a society with a gun to its head. Future historians may view it exactly that way.


National Parents Organization is a Shared Parenting Organization

National Parents Organization is a non-profit that educates the public, families, educators, and legislators about the importance of shared parenting and how it can reduce conflict in children, parents, and extended families. Along with Shared Parenting we advocate for fair Child Support and Alimony Legislation. Want to get involved?  Here’s how:

Together, we can drive home the family, child development, social and national benefits of shared parenting, and fair child support and alimony. Thank you for your activism.

#marriage, #fathers, #BradWilcox, #societalwell-being

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