Shocking News: Marriage is Good For Children!

There have been some strange rumblings on this blog as of late.

The rumblings have been about my conservative “pro-marriage” stance and my obvious disdain for single people.

I will quickly dismiss with both of these by saying that if I looked down on single people, I’d have no clients and fewer friends.

Plus, I’d be a hypocrite, since I was single for 35 years before getting hitched 3 years ago.

So, no, I don’t look down on single people. However, that doesn’t mean that I think single people are in the best position to raise kids.

Which is why the commentary about how I’m suddenly “conservative” for believing in marriage is so absurd.

Have we really gone that far away from reality that conservatives “own” the marriage issue? Are liberals really advocating for a world in which nobody gets married, nobody gets bad grades, and nobody passes judgment on anybody else? Because if that’s the case, we liberals are fighting a foolish and losing battle. It’s important to pay attention to science, which, at its best, should simply reflect reality.

I’m a die-hard liberal who believes that when it comes to raising kids, marriage is in important institution. This isn’t my reality. This is reality.

Note that I did not say that everyone has to be married or there’s something wrong with you if you’re not.

Note that I did not say that it was impossible for millions of non-married families to raise perfectly good children.

Note that I did not say that marriage is at all a guarantee of happiness and stability.

I am saying that, overall, if you’re going to raise children, they are more likely to turn out healthy if they come from a loving two-parent household. And, since most relationships that last for thirty years in which people raise children together are called “marriage”, that’s the term that I’m choosing to use today.

Here’s a paper from the Marriage and Religion Research Institute that cites 20 different independent studies that verify that children from married couples fare better in school, in behavior, and in life, overall.

This is not to suggest that two people in a miserable marriage should stay together strictly for the kids. This is only to suggest that the institution of marriage – far from being obsolete – tends to produce healthier children overall than children who are born raised in alternative ways (grandmother, cohabiting, single parent, for example.)

To clarify one last time, I’m not saying it’s not possible for kids from alternate homes to turn out great (Thank you President Obama!), but rather that if studies show that marriage tends, in general, to be a stabilizing force for children, why would this be a controversial stance? Are facts that contradict your personal narrative that hard to digest? I sure hope not.

For example, if you think that, since getting married, I’m blindly pro-marriage, you would be incorrect. I’m pro-marriage for people who are confident, self-aware, self-sacrificing, and willing to make smart trade-offs, especially in service of raising children. I’m anti-marriage for anyone who a) doesn’t want to be married and b) doesn’t have the capacity to be a good partner in life, with all that entails. I’d much rather have fewer good marriages than more bad marriages (which usually result from two people who feel chemistry but haven’t stopped to consider whether they’re truly compatible).

Further evidence that marriage isn’t a panacea comes from David Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow: “There was no overall difference in experienced well-being between women who lived with a mate and women who did not…Women who have a mate spend less time alone, but also much less time with friends. They spend more time making love, but also more time doing housework, preparing food and caring for children. And of course, the large amount of time married women spend with their husband is much more pleasant for some than others. Experienced well-being is on average unaffected by marriage, not because marriage makes no difference to happiness, but because it changes some aspects of life for the better and others for the worse.”

No argument here. But that is about whether married women are happier, not whether kids are better off with two parents at home.

And studies like the one above suggest that they are.

I, for one, am much better equipped to raise my daughter with my wife than either of us are to raise her without each other. And the fact that we’re married, not merely cohabiting, affirms our commitment to each other and our daughter and makes it more real and tangible. The fact that many marriages fail doesn’t mean that marriage isn’t a more serious commitment than “living together”.

So without repeating the fallacious ad hominem attacks – and trying to shoot down the source of the studies, which is another common trope from those who don’t like their conclusions – let’s consider one question:

What advantages are there to raising children without the stable, two-parent household which is most commonly known as “marriage”?

Sorry, but I’m coming up dry.

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  1. 31


    Confirmation bias –  interpreting ambiguous evidence as supporting existing position.
    We are all susceptible to it. But at least knowing we are likely to fall victim may help reduce the likelihood of it.
    News outlets take on scientific evidence is already coming to us through the filter of confirmation bias.

    I certainly know if it was just down to my own anecdotal evidence it would be a slam dunk, but the population size may not be large enough to be  representative.
    Most of the published figures deal with the population as a whole and not age sub sets which is annoying, but we do have some.

    An AARP  study called Lifestyles,Dating and Romance a study of midlife singles. This is a very in depth analysis of dating habits of those over 40 and shows that about 90% of the men wish to date younger women (Duh!), but more to the point near 60% succeeded in dating above 5 years younger, and a THIRD had a current partner more than 10 years younger.The second study is by Stanford University quote “In first marriages, men are typically a couple years older than women, but the older men are when they marry, and it doesn’t matter whether it’s a first or a second marriage, the more years they marry down.  Men in their 40s tend to marry women who average seven years younger, and men in their 50s are marrying brides who AVERAGE 11 years younger” (so many are of course far higher)

    So we have studies showing that for the target demographic there is significant age difference and NO study that I can see that shows small age difference at marriage  for the target demographic. 

    Additionally we know that men actively target women far younger (OK Cupid data) and women over 40 finding it difficult to get dates (huge number of sources !) Very few female divorcees remarry compared to men. I think we can assume that a reasonable number of men are successful with those they target.

    Now it may be that for older men to commit at all, then the woman has got to be something special (younger, healthier, beautiful), and those men that fail to attract the target market, do not settle and either keep trying or give up. Pure conjecture, but it may explain the figures.


    1. 31.1
      Evan Marc Katz


      I just read every word of that AARP study. I’ll concede its validity, even though it’s dated (pre-online dating boom) and not a really good representative sample of my readers’ demographics (a lot more low income/uneducated). Still, it’s remarkable how we read the same thing and see different things. My highlights:

      Most midlife and older men want to date younger women. Many midlife and older women, by choice or need, also want to date younger men, ironically making men and women’s age preference in dates incompatible.

      Attractive Qualities in a Partner
      Men: Personality/Sense of Humor – 60%, Common Interests – 46%, Intelligence – 34%, Religious Values – 22%, Attractiveness – 31%, Younger – 7%.

      Preferred Age of Dating Partner by Gender:

      Women: 33% – 1-4 years older, 7% – 5-9 years older, 2% – 10-14 years older, 0% – 15 years older.

      The portion you’re citing does indicate that 29% of men found women 10 years younger to date. I’m not going to argue with that fact. I will simply point out that a) this doesn’t indicate whether the relationship got off the ground, b) 71% of men didn’t choose to date women 10 years younger, because they value personality, common interests, and intelligence more than an age difference, c) this is an AARP poll. How many respondents do you really think are 40 year olds dating 25 year olds, vs. 65 year olds dating 55 year olds?

      So, while I will concede that there may be more older guys pulling off the age gap than I previously anticipated, it’s still a drop in the bucket compared to the number of relationships where people are within 5 years of each other. And, as you pointed out, since there can’t be a 10 year age gap at age 25, chances are that it’s more likely to happen over the age of 50.

      But this also might indicate that men are lying, the same way that women lie about how many men they’ve slept with. Because the numbers don’t square: if only 2% of women are open to men 10-14 years older, yet 29% of men say they’re dating women 10-14 years younger, someone is clearly not telling the truth. Right?

  2. 32


    Quite agree, can’t place too much weight on what people “say” in isolation.
    However the Stanford research is by two women studying marriage records.

    Its been a while since I researched this, and I have come across another couple of recent surveys that I was not previously aware of.
    Let me state here that I support completely Evan’s view on what should matter in relationships, and if you look at anything I have said on this blog, it mainly centres on my view that we are compelled by biological forces to do that wish is NOT in our overall best interest. My wish here is to shed light on what is actually happening in the dating marketplace.
    Based on personal observation, it is my contention that the age difference of people marrying later in life is much higher than for the population as whole. I previously gave details of two surveys by AARP and Stanford University that supports this.
    To these I also now include the UK National Statistics report “Age differences at marriage and divorce” and the Statistics Norway report Age “differences at marriage – the times they are a changing ?”
    I will summarize the findings – please do go look at the research.
    Note the figures are for the whole population, no account of education or income levels.
    The Norway report states that average age differences are concealingmajor changes in the direction of a greater variation – more older men are marrying younger women – and vice versa, women are marrying younger men. Between 1966 and 2002 the percentage of “typical” or traditional age differences in the man’s favor (where the man is 2-5 years older) has dramatically declined.The proportion of marriages entered into where the man is 10 years or more older than the woman is the group that has increased the most; by almost double.
    One of the factors, is that Norwegian men are increasingly marrying mail order brides (and I always thought that this was an urban myth !), who are much younger.
    The UK report shows (as you may imagine) a more conservative attitude. It too shows that although the age differences at first marriage are falling to close to zero, between 1963 and 2003 the age variation for 90% of marriages has increased with up to 10 years difference being replaced by up to 13 years difference. In 2003, it looks like about a third of men over 40 were marrying women more than 10 years younger (it doesn’t show figures for more men more than 20 years older , but clearly over 50s are marrying women younger than that)
    As with the Norway stats, more women are marrying younger men
    The UKs main report finding is that age difference is NOT affecting likelihood of divorce
    Results for the whole population are masking wide age variances for older marriages
    Men over 40, and especially over 50 have a significant chance of marrying women more than 10 years younger (very not drop in the bucket!)
    This is irrespective of the income of the man.
    Women too have an increased chance of marrying younger
    Trend is to even wider variation

  3. 33

    EMK, stamp your feet all you want about some absolute measures of “truth.” I believe that greater minds than yours have already tackled this one.

    1. 33.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      Thanks for the insult, Lara. Now please refrain from posting here. I prefer readers who enjoy my posts as opposed to telling me I’m dishonest.

  4. 34

    What most people’s contention here is that the children born with a mother and father who are married (and there are no perfect marriages and believe me, each child grows up with some ‘dysfunction’ in someone else’s judgement, parents do the best they can) is NOT the best situation as there are other arrangements that are equivalent? 

    And that most men who are older are marrying women who are 10+ more years younger than them? 

  5. 35

    “Good marriage is good for children”. FACT
    “Bad marriage is bad for children. FACT
    “marriage is good for children”. NOT A FACT
    Marriage obviously isn’t the key variable in this (a statistician would say) fallacious relationship. Pretending the contrary does not make sense and is simply not accurate.

    1. 35.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      I think if you set it up like that, Soul, you can say that marriage isn’t the key variable. Except, according to the studies, it IS. What we call “marriage” is two parents in a relationship, co-parenting their kids in the same household. That model works BETTER than single parents, grandparents, foster parents, remarried parents and everything else, overall. So while no one is making the argument that BAD marriage is GOOD for kids, and no one is making the argument that GOOD kids can’t be raised by single parents, and no one is making the argument that BAD couples should stay together for the kids…the fact remains that kids who come from married households fare BETTER than kids from alternative households. So what you wrote above is what’s misleading; not the 20 studies that were cited.

  6. 36

    You know, I don’t think anyone has taken into account the fact that its been shown by numerous studies that the MORE people actively involved in a child’s upbringing in constructive ways, the better off the child is in the long term. Rationally, this makes sense and I find it amazing that people are arguing against this point. If my life is enriched with FIVE people actively raising me as a child, I’ll have more input, more experiences, more breadth of emotional contact. If my life only has ONE person in it, my experiences, emotional breadth, and even opportunities are therefore lower on average.  It would simply logically follow that TWO people with the child’s best interest in mind are going to be better than one. 

    This only makes logical, rational sense and in the past, children were often raised in extended family environments…with MORE than two people involved in their upbringing. 

    I’m afraid my biggest problem with the child/parenting issue has been the reasoning people use to HAVE children. I’ve talked to single women who have decided to have a child on their own because “I don’t want to miss out on the greatest experience a woman can have” or any number of reasons that are very self-centered.  Raising a child is a commitment to the CHILD, not to YOUR EXPERIENCES. When you have a child, the child comes first, not your desires for certain experiences.  Those are ancillary.  This isn’t a pet, and its not a toy for your personal enjoyment or experience fulfillment alone. This is another human being that you are now resonsible for raising in a way that will be most beneficial to he or she in life BEYOND you. My personal thought is that a good portion of people having children today are having them for the wrong reasons to begin with.

  7. 37


    Why are you here?  I went back and looked through a variety of the comment sections for Evan’s posts and…well, you don’t really seem to contribute anything meaningful to the discussions. All I see is you basically saying “Evan is wrong” or “Evan is trying to prove something”…or making smartass replies towards letters Evan puts in his blog entry (if its the same Lara, and from the writing style I suspect it is). 

    Are you against rational discourse using facts and evidence to back yourself up in a meaningful way?  It seems you simply say “Nope, you’re wrong” without anything to back it up, even if its just a logical and rational opinion (instead of simply “you’re wrong”).    

  8. 38

    As humans its apart of our creation to grow up and become married…Sadly those with unhealed bad experiences from marriage believe otherwise.

  9. 39

    Poor Mr. Katz; he is trying to make a business through this website and blog, and this subject seems to have opened a hornet’s nest of (strictly my subjective opinion) “disappointed harridans'” invectives towards men (in general) because their lives did not evolve as they expected in accordance with the  images burned in their psyches according to the propaganda from the infotainment industry! And, as well, other commentators here make supposedly mathematically valid claims concerning changes in dating patterns, quantity and quality of households (other than the so-called traditional two-parent heterosexual household) that raise/nuture/develop children who mature into responsible, productive members of society and make such assertions without considering the statistical validity of their assertions!!!!

    Simple example:  If I made a study, 5 years ago, stating that 50% of men older than 50 were dating women who are at least 10 years younger than the men, based upon a “sampling” of 12 couple; and I make the same study now and find that 75% of men over 50 etc, etc; what is the statistical validity of the two studies?  My study, then and now, still has an approximate 30% error bar.  And, therefore, it could be mathematically valid for me to claim that there has been no change in the five year period that men over 50 etc., etc.  

    Although I would like to use the word “st_p_d” to describe a large majority of Americans, on this blog I will be more polite and use the word “innumerate” to describe some of the commentators here who claim that they “disprove” Mr. Katz’s contentions regarding the (my words) advantages that accrue to children born into, and raised in a two parent household, vast majority legally married — according to the precepts of the society in which they live — compared to children raised in “alternative” types of households.  I would agree that “correlation is, not always, causation”; but this phrase does not invalidate all of the direct/indirect evidence that, in statistically valid studies, children develop into responsible members of their society much more often when raised in an “enduring” (or long term) two-parent household.


  10. 40

    I definitely think my child lost a lot of benefits when I left my ex.  I live near him and we share parenting time 50-50, and we both have great jobs, and we are civil with each other.  I personally don’t agree with his parenting style and he doesn’t agree with mine, but there is respect and co-operation there, and I know he absolutely loves our child.  As far as being a child of divorce, she’s very ‘lucky’.  But she’s still worse off than children whose parents are together in a stable marriage.  I don’t ever regret having her, but I have felt I owe her an apology for bringing her into this situation. Oh and for the record we dated almost four years before we married and we were married over four years before she was born.  This wasn’t a mistake of passion.  This was ignoring red flags, being too young, making a bad decision etc.

    But I still want to remarry.  I want to provide her with a complete family even if it’s only half the time.  I have a wonderful boyfriend who is a part of our lives and the family dynamic the three of us create is amazing.  It is warm, and loving and gentle.  I make supper while she ‘reads’ her favourite stories to him in between play-fights (that she loves, but I just don’t do.  It’s more of a guy-thing, I guess).  Meal-times are much richer in conversation with three people.  Then he cleans the kitchen while I have quality time with her and get her ready for bed.  A clean kitchen AND quality time?  What luxury!  And oh the joy of demonstrating a loving, respectful relationship to her!  -that is pure bliss.

    It’s nothing like the family my ex and I were creating: cold and contentious, and unstable.  It’s also nothing like the family I was creating with just myself and my daughter: a constant struggle to be everything; surviving, not thriving; more peaceful but still incomplete.  

    I haven’t had a lot of good role models for cohesive family life.  Actually none.  I am very glad I spent the last two years growing as a person and learning about healthy interpersonal communication so that I would be able to create this amazing relationship with this wonderful man.    Most importantly, my daughter has really benefitted from this relationship.  I had no idea how much she craved a family unit until we all started spending time together.  She beams with pride when we are out in public.  She gives him hugs and holds his hand.  She thinks it’s silly that he doesn’t sleep over (she’s four -she knows not what she speaks of) and she has ‘generously’ offered him my bed, telling him it’s big enough for two adults, or even two adults and a kid; that way we could have breakfast together.  she’s been less anxious in general and much better-behaved at school.  I’m really amazed at the difference.

    I’d rather live alone for the rest of my life than go back to my ex.  I was prepared for that when I left him.  But I would marry my new boyfriend in a heart beat if the relationship continues to be this amazing.  (And yes, we’ve had dissagreements, but we sorted them out respectfully and moved on without lingering resentment)

  11. 41
    David T

    @Serena27 49 (hut, hut HIKE!)
    That really spoke to me.  When I first split from my ex, one of the things I wanted most for my son was to see his Dad in a happy loving relationship, so he would see what that looked like, and also to have a livelier family dynamic, maybe with a sibling or two. He was 8 then and is 15 now, and I feel like that sibling window has closed for him, but that is not the end of the world.
    I also would rather solo parent my son than to continue to raise him in the dysfunctional household he had been a part of.   Instead of potentially being a f-ed up young man , he is turning out to be a wonderful human being. He might have been OK anyway, his resilience always impressed me, but I heard from multiple teachers in his elementary school that I was very important to him. One once told me out of the blue that I had “saved [my son’s] life.”
    A solid two parent family is better than a one parent-at-a-time situation for a child, and one parent is far better than two parents and major stress.

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