Interview: Evidence supporting marriage “stronger than ever”
Professor Brad Wilcox is a leading international authority on data around marriage and the family. Director of the US National Marriage Project, Fellow of the Institute of Family Studies and Professor at the University of Virginia, Brad took time out from his busy schedule to talk with me.
Prof Wilcox explains that the most recent evidence shows a 20 percentage-point difference in overall life satisfaction between Americans who are married and those who are not; the data “could not be clearer”.
Similarly, regarding benefits to children, Brad points out that “marriage matters more than ever”. When it comes to criminal activity, college education and child poverty, “there’s just a very large gap” between children growing up with the biological father present compared to those who do not. “Kids are more likely to flounder when they don’t have the benefit of married parents”, he concludes.
Although UK data is more limited, he says, “the basic story is extraordinarily similar”.
“What we see in the research”, he says, “is that people who cohabit prior to marriage are more likely to get divorced and are more likely to be unhappy in their marriages”. Having multiple partners, Brad says, is “very strongly linked to marital problems and divorce”.
There are four factors making it harder for people to marry: economic inequality, increased screen-time, declining religious communities, and a breakdown of social norms. The paradox, Brad says, is that marriage actually combats all of these. The “tragedy of our moment”, he goes on, “is that marriage and family are receding at precisely the social moment when they’re more valuable”.
Restoring the national value of marriage will require, among other things, “new avenues of communicating” its advantages as well as addressing marriage penalties (e.g. in the benefit system).
Brad urges us to stop being “defensive” about marriage, and recognise that “the force is with us”! “There is a better and a worse way to do things”, Brad adds. If “you would like to end up in a better place, vote for yourself and support marriage”.
C4M recognise that one man, one woman marriage leads individuals and society to a better place. No other relationship type comes close. We call on the new Government to prioritise what’s best for the next generation, and for the nation – promoting real marriage.