Marriage is a “Benefit to Society”
MARCH 19, 2018
The establishment of marriage is no longer an unquestioned, fundamental part of society. Many regard marriage only as a temporary agreement for the satisfaction of adults; others question the value of marriage altogether. Still, in a study from Rutledge University called “The National Marriage Study,” polls of high school seniors from across the U.S. showed that a happy marriage was their top goal for the future (2009). In the realm of psychotherapy, marriage is a basic topic for study, because of its involvement in most patients’s lives. Sylvia R. Karasu, M.D., asserts that there are three general perspectives when it comes to marriage: psychodynamic, relational, and institutional. The psychodynamic approach examines the conscious and unconscious motives, fears, and ideas that influence a marriage. The relational approach focuses on maintaining marriage as a personal function. Thirdly, the institutional approach examines how marriage encircles public and private relationships that serves an irreplaceable function in human lives.
“Marriage as an institution then implies certain obligations and grants rights and privileges. It becomes something that is as much a benefit to society as it is to the individual, and this view raises the question of whether marriage as an institution is terminable,” says Karasu.
How Marriage is a “Benefit to Society”
Marriage is both public and private because it is legally binding. Marriage maintains a cultural set of boundaries, a “cultural script” as Karasu calls it. These promote moral and acceptable behavior through society’s expectations. For instance, infidelity and adultery are considered unacceptable in society, and out-of-wedlock sex is discouraged by a variety of groups based on religion or certain morals. These norms do more than restrict adults from straying out of line, they add a protection to help children be raised in a supportive environment.
Children develop best when they have a secure attachment with a father and a mother, who are faithful to each other. Countless studies offer data on the benefits of these relationships. Children who are born out-of-wedlock immediately are at greater risk for many of the difficulties associated with fatherlessness, poverty, and family stress. If marriage is for the benefit of children, then surely a society is strengthened by the proper raising of its’ youth. A father and a mother who are committed to each other, build a strong unit for the good of their children and the enhancement of society.
Marriage has long been a provision for controlling and civilizing sex. It provided a format for sex that would benefit children by keeping their biological parents together, while offering the commitment of a life-long sexual partner. In this way, sexually transmitted disease is minimized, sexual satisfaction is increased, and emotional health is protected. Research shows that powerful emotions are inseparable from sex; consequently, the attempted separation of sex from love and commitment inevitably leads to deep confusion and heartache. Marriage offers a healthy channel for these instincts while ensuring the health and well-being of partner and their children.
While many attempt to take precaution against a failed marriage by cohabitating with a partner first, many studies have revealed the counterintuitive truth that cohabitation decreases marriage or relationship success. In fact, those who cohabit before marriage are more likely to become divorced than those who do not cohabit before marriage. Studies like one by Waite (1995); Kim and McKenry ( 2002); and Waite and Gallagher (2001, p. 37), ”demonstrate that cohabiters who are not engaged to be married, that is, who do not have definite marriage plans, such as a ring purchased or a date set, do not gain the same benefits in terms of physical and mental health as those who are married”. Perhaps the willingness to commit for life actually strengthens the relationship, rather than the opposite.
While it is impossible to change our society to accommodate traditional marriage and family as it once did, we must recognize that the value of marriage is about more than just the husband and the wife and their individual wants and needs. It is key to the happiness and success of the next generation and the establishment of a healthy and moral society.
For more information on the importance and benefit of marriage:
Marriage and the Family – ACPeds research-based position statement
30 Conclusions from Social Sciences that Proclaim the Importance of Marriage – ACPeds Blog post
The Impact of Family Structure on the Health of Children – Effects of Divorce – ACPeds research-based position statement
Cohabitation: Effects of Cohabitation on the Men and Women Involved – Part 1 of 2 – ACPeds research-based position statement
Cohabitation: Effects of Parental Cohabitation and other Non-marital Sexual Activity on Children – Part 2 of 2 – ACPeds research-based position statement
Karasu, S. R. (2007). The Institution of Marriage: Terminable or Interminable?. American Journal Of Psychotherapy, 61(1), 1-16.
Popenoe, D. & Whitehead, B.D. (2000). The State of Our Unions, 2000: The Social Health of Marriage in America: Social Indicators of Marital Health and Wellheing, New Brunswick: The National Marriage Project, (http://marriage.rutgers.edu).
Waite, L.J. & Gallagher, M. (2001). The Case for Marriage: Why Married People are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially. New York: Broadway Books.