Articles for Married Couples

Everything listed under: marriage

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    Education, Marriage and Child Wellbeing

    Over the years, there has been a shift in the sequence of marriage and parenthood. Remember the rhyme? 

    "First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in the baby carriage...”

    Not so - at least anymore. In fact, 57 percent of mothers between the age of 26 and 31 are unmarried when their child is born.

    While you may think this is the “new normal,” it isn’t the norm for everyone.

    A study by Andrew Cherlin at Johns Hopkins University shows that a college education has become more than a pathway to higher paying jobs. A college education is now a definitive factor in childbearing. Of mothers without a high school diploma, 63 percent of births occur outside of marriage. Among college-educated young women, 71 percent of births occur within marriage.

    How does this trend affect children?

    Research shows that this set of circumstances creates two distinct paths for children where marriage and education are the deciding factors. When children grow up in a home with their two married parents, they are more likely to experience a stable environment with access to an array of resources and educational opportunities.

    In a non-married home, children are less likely to grow up with stability or opportunity to access the same type of resources.

    Children from single-parent homes are five times more likely to experience poverty. But, children who grow up with their married parents in low-income homes are at far less risk of being poor.

    Children need stability.

    But in an interview with the news site, Vox, Cherlin shared his concern about the stability of family lives for children. Cohabiting unions typically break up at higher rates than marriages. About half of all cohabiting couples will either marry or break up within two years. Those who break up will likely create more cohabiting unions - and creating more instability.

    If you believe that people with a high school diploma or less are not as likely to want marriage, think again. Katheryn Edin’s research (Promises I Can Keep) with 150 low-income women clearly indicates that these women want marriage, but they have to wait to find the right person to marry. However, getting pregnant is something they can do right away.

    Most teens (74%) see marriage and children in their future - in that order. This is according to a June 2014 National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unwanted Pregnancies report.

    Clearly, there is a disconnect concerning the significance of marriage and its impact on child well-being. Our society often emphasizes the importance of higher education for young people. It usually fails to address, however, the sequencing for success and the significance of marriage.

    There are profoundly different outcomes for children when people attain higher education, work full time, marry and then start families. Their chances of living in poverty drop from 12 percent to 2 percent. Also, the chances of joining the middle class move from 56 percent to 74 percent. Imagine how future generations would be impacted if more people realized the benefits of following this “success sequence.”

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    How Family Structure Benefits Women, Men and Kids

    Dads don’t matter. Seriously, dads don’t make a difference - unless it matters that children are physically and emotionally healthy and achieve educational success. If those things matter for your children, then fathers DO make a difference.

    Dr. Alma Golden, pediatrician and former member of the American Academy of Pediatrics Task Force on the Family, has a lot to say about marriage and children.

    “As Baby Boomers we were told these things:

    • Marriage is old-fashioned and confining;

    • Open relationships are healthier and more conducive to personal development;

    • Fathers are nice but not necessary;

    • It is better to live with a divorced mother than two unhappy parents;

    • The kids will be okay, they are flexible; and

    • Financial disparities are the reason for the differences in health and educational achievement.

    “What we believed changed our world and started driving personal decisions. People started getting married later. Women are having fewer children and having them later. Single mothers are giving birth to more children. Fewer children are living with their married biological parents,” says Golden.

    So how do these changes affect children?

    A study of 294,000 families released in 2010 by the Centers for Disease Control indicates family structure makes a huge difference for children.

    The CDC study indicates that when children grow up with their two married biological parents, they have a lower rate of delayed medical care. They're also less likely to have ADHD regardless of income, education, poverty status, place of residence or region.

    Additionally, an earlier study found that in sixth through 12th graders, the strongest predictor of getting a diploma and going to college is having a father who attends PTA meetings.

    “When dads show a clear commitment to their children, encouraging them in their educational endeavors, children do better,” Golden says. “The research also indicated that a married daddy at home doubles the chances that a child learns self-management.

    "Conversely, non-nuclear families seem to struggle with a lot of issues. For example, cohabitating fathers have less than half the income of married fathers. They tend to bring less commitment to the family as a general rule. The implications for the children are they have fewer resources available to them. Additionally, seven in 10 children of cohabiting couples will experience parental separation.”

    Findings from the American Academy of Pediatrics Task Force in 2003 showed that:

    • Married men and women are physically and emotionally healthier. They are less likely to participate in risky behavior such as alcohol and drug abuse.

    • Married men and women live longer.

    • People behave differently when they are married. They live healthier lifestyles and monitor each other’s health. And, the increased social support also increases the family's chances of success.

    “If we look back at the baby boomer list, what we now know is that marriage is actually beneficial for men, women and children,” Golden says. “Cohabitation is often of low-trust, stressful and more prone to violence and dissolution. Fathers are a necessity. Good enough marriages produce better outcomes than divorce. The kids are NOT flexible and may not be okay and family structure and stability are more important predictors of outcomes than finances.”

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    For Richer, For Poorer

    Does marriage matter? People have been asking this question for decades.

    For Richer, For Poorer: How Family Structures Economic Success in America examined how family structure impacts the economic fortunes of American families. Dr. Brad Wilcox, senior fellow at the Institute for Family Studies and Robert Lerman, professor of economics at American University, conducted the research.

    They concluded that marriage is key to productive adulthood, stable families and healthy communities.

    Five significant findings emerged from this study about the relationships between family patterns and economic well-being in America:

    • The retreat from marriage is key to the changing economic fortunes of American family life. The median income of families with children would be approximately 44% higher if the United States enjoyed 1980-levels of married parenthood today.

    • Strong associations exist between growing up with both parents in an intact family and higher levels of education, work and income. Young men and women from intact families enjoy an annual “intact family premium.” The premium amounts to $6,500 and $4,700, respectively, over the incomes of their peers from single-parent families.

    • Men obtain a substantial “marriage premium” and women bear no marriage penalty to their individual incomes. Plus, both men and women enjoy substantially higher family incomes compared to peers with otherwise similar characteristics.

    • Growing up with both parents increases the odds of attaining higher education. Higher education leads to higher odds of marriage as an adult. Both the extra education and marriage result in higher income levels. Men and women from intact families who are currently married enjoy an annual “family premium” in their household income. The premium exceeds that of their single peers from in non-intact families by at least $42,000.

    • All populations benefit from growing up in an intact family and being married. It applies about as much to blacks, Hispanics and whites. The advantages also apply to less-educated men and women. Men with a high-school diploma or less enjoy a marriage premium of at least $17,000 compared to single peers.

    Strong and stable families are economically vital. Consequently, Wilcox and Lerman contend that business and civic leaders and policymakers should strengthen and stabilize marriage and family life in the U.S. And since the poor and working class feel the impact of the nation's retreat from marriage most, Lerman and Wilcox believe the efforts should be focused on them.

    The authors also recommend:

    • Public policy should “do no harm” when it comes to marriage. Policymakers should eliminate or reduce marriage penalties.

    • Civic institutions, private and public partners, businesses, state governments and public schools should launch a national "success sequence" campaign together. This would encourage young adults to sequence schooling, work, marriage and then parenthood. It would also stress the benefits of being born to married parents with a secure economic foundation.

    Lerman and Wilcox contend that the nation's retreat from marriage is worrisome. It not only affects family inequality, but men’s declining labor-force participation and the vitality of the American dream.

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    Celebrate Your Anniversary!

    Do you remember the date of your wedding anniversary? If you didn’t cheat and look at the engraved date on your wedding band, give yourself some points.

    How many years have you been married? If you had to think to figure it out, take away some points.

    How did you celebrate your last anniversary? Did you remember without having to ask your spouse what you did?

    If the answer is yes, give yourself a few more points. Add some points to your total if you did something fun as a couple. 

    If you let it slide by with no real celebration because you didn’t have time or were too tired, take away a few points. 

    If you completely forgot your wedding anniversary, you just lost ALL your points.

    Couples marry and even a year or two into their marriage they are still planning crazy fun adventures to celebrate their love. But after a few years, things begin to settle down. Children come along and creativity often flies out the window. Who has time or even feels like planning to celebrate a silly anniversary?

    We do a great job of celebrating birthdays and holidays, but lots of couples let their wedding anniversary slide by. Think about it - how many wedding anniversaries do you recall celebrating?

    Birthdays and holidays are certainly things to celebrate. But, considering how much time, effort and energy it takes to make a marriage really hum, wedding anniversaries are cause for celebration. If your marriage faced exceptional challenges during the year, some anniversaries might deserve a huge celebration to acknowledge making it through the tough times.

    When life is coming at you full speed ahead, you can easily take your marriage for granted. But doing this over the years is like watching a sinkhole form. Erosion is taking place underneath the surface. And while there may be a few signs things aren’t right, it may not appear to be anything major until the whole thing caves in and people are shocked.

    Don’t take your marriage for granted. It's up to both people in the marriage to intentionally make every anniversary something you won’t forget. Every time you make it another year, celebrate what you have and dream about your future together.

    Whether your anniversary is this weekend or nine months from now, take the time to make it special. It doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. Re-create your first date, plan a romantic evening, write a love letter to your spouse or plan a surprise getaway. Do married well!

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    5 Ways to Stoke the Fire of Passion in Marriage

    In his song Too Cold at Home, Mark Chesnutt sings, “It’s too hot to fish, too hot for golf and too cold at home.” Even if it’s boiling outside, it can be cold at home when it comes to your marriage.

    Over time, many people seem to be willing to let sexual intimacy fly right out the window. Yet experts tell us that healthy intimacy is foundational to long-lasting, loving relationships.

    In a letter to Ann Landers, a woman wrote about how her parents could not afford a honeymoon so they made a promise. Every time they made love, they would put a dollar in a box and on their 50th anniversary they would take a honeymoon trip to Hawaii. In spite of hard times, they never took money out of the box. Some nights the husband would come home from work exclaiming he had a dollar in his pocket. His wife would tell him she knew just how to spend it!

    When each of their children married, they gave them a box and shared their secret. The couple took their 50th anniversary trip to Hawaii for 10 days and paid for everything from the money they saved in the box. As they were leaving on the plane, the husband turned and said, “Tonight we will start working on a trip to Cancun!”

    Many pieces of recent research cite how much humans crave intimacy, but many married couples experience a void in this area due to hectic schedules, children (young and old), jobs, stress, etc. Whether you have been married a few months or many years, sex can be exciting, adventurous, fun and creative. 

    You may be asking yourself how that couple made and kept intimacy in their relationship a priority for 50 years...

    Well, here are some things relationship experts encourage you to think about:

    • Do you always make love in the same place, at the same time in the same way? If your answer is yes, consider doing something different to spice things up.
    • Describe what a romantic time with your spouse would be like. What would be your spouse’s description of a romantic time together? If you don’t know the answer to this question, do some detective work and find out.
    • Does your spouse do romantic things that you really like? If yes, tell him/her so. If not, help him/her to know what you like.
    • Consider sending love messages to your spouse during the day. Stick-it notes in the wallet, voice mail, e-mail, lipstick messages on the bathroom mirror, a special delivery, flowers with a message, a snail mail letter, or a note on the dashboard are all great ways to communicate “I love you,” “Let’s get together,” or “Looking forward to this afternoon.”
    • People find all kinds of creative ways to flirt when they are dating. Think about some of the ways you used to flirt with your spouse. Consider resurrecting those that worked best. The outcome might pleasantly surprise you!

    According to Dr. Paul Pearsall, author of Super Marital Sex, “The marriage comes first. All other people and events come after the marriage. Children, parents, work and play all benefit most by marital priority instead of marital sacrifice, because the marriage is the central unit to all other processes. If it is true that we reap what we sow, then marriages are in big trouble - if we put as much time in our working as we allow for our loving, we would end up unemployed or bankrupt.”

    If the temperature on the thermometer outside is not reflective of the passion level in your marriage, get creative. Be adventurous and take it up a notch. Even if the passion in your marriage is nonexistent, it can get good. And if it is good, it can get even better!

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    5 Ways to Have an Olympic-Worthy Marriage

    Stories abound about the winter 2014 Olympic athletes and what it took for them to participate in the games. Katie Summerhayes, Sage Kotsenburg, Bode Miller and others trained for thousands of hours. Why? They wanted to become the best in their sport - whether they actually won a medal or not.

    It's unlikely that anyone said, “You’re a natural, just get out there and make it happen,” or “You don’t need any training, just show up on race day.” When these athletes became serious about their sport, they found coaches to help them reach their fullest potential. Moreover, they followed through and put in their time.

    Take Bode Miller, for instance. As one of the most successful Alpine skiers in American history, Miller experienced extreme disappointment. He actually came in 8th in a race he had hoped would signal his return after knee surgery. Yet, even after such a disappointing run, he returned to the slopes for another event's training run.

    Why are so many people willing to put in blood, sweat and tears to succeed athletically, but they often won’t put even half the effort into their marriage? Imagine what marriages nationwide could be if we put in a fraction of these athletes' training time!

    Fortunately, many successful athletic practices also apply to your marriage.

    • Learn about the sport. Educate yourself about building a healthy marriage and finding a “keeper.” Don’t just assume you know. Unprepared athletes receive serious, but avoidable injuries. It's the same in marriage.

    • Train, and be hungry to learn new insights and strategies. Just as athletes constantly seek to improve, continually learning new insights and strategies in marriage helps individuals and couples change and grow over time.

    • Give it 100 percent. Athletes eat, sleep and breathe their sport. They devote themselves to it, often travel great distances and make significant sacrifice to train with the best. Your marriage can really benefit from a 100% commitment.

    • Practice determination. Bode Miller was determined to ski again even after surgery and a successful run as an athlete. He and many other athletes have a “do whatever it takes” mentality. Most marriages would benefit from adopting this attitude.

    • Don’t give up. Athletes can easily reflect on victories and disappointments. Couples rarely do this, it can be motivational. Anybody in a worthwhile relationship will say that the mountaintops are awesome. Additionally, they learned the most about their marriage in the valleys.

    As you know, becoming the best at anything doesn't happen overnight. Each Olympian invests their time, determination and perseverance to achieve their life's goal. Your marriage is also the commitment of a lifetime. Why stop short of the victory?


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    Addiction and Marriage, Part 2

    Addiction and Marriage, Part 1 told of a married couple’s struggle with alcohol and its impact on their marriage. The story ended with Ellen resolving to find David (names changed to protect their privacy), who was drinking heavily, had quit his job and left town. She was going to bring him home and move forward with divorce.

    “Little did I know, the Lord had other plans,” Ellen says.

    She knew he had gone on a business trip to Las Vegas and resigned from his job while there, so she headed for the Nevada city.

    “I had a name of a hotel I thought I had heard in one of the phone calls (from David). I arrived in the middle of the night. When the taxi driver saw the name of the hotel, he tried to talk me out of going there, saying I had no business in that part of town.”

    At the hotel, Ellen found her husband on the brink of death from drinking.

    “It took six paramedics and police officers to get my husband out of that room and to the hospital,” Ellen says. “I’ve never seen anything like that in my life. In 48 hours we were on a plane home. When the plane landed, David went straight into treatment knowing our marriage was over.”

    Over the 30 days David was in treatment, Ellen received letters from him daily. Through the letters, she got to know her husband again.

    “If we had been talking, we would have been fighting because I felt so much anger toward him,” Ellen says. “I never once wrote him a letter. I did take the kids to see him on Father’s Day.”

    That day, Ellen saw her husband healthy for the first time in a very long time. In spite of her anger and resentment, she had a small glimmer of hope, like something bigger than themselves was going on.

    “Both of us had been trying to make everything better on our own,” Ellen says. “We didn’t think we needed anybody to help us, nor did we want people knowing our business. Exhausted and at the end of my rope, I finally broke down and shared about our situation with a group of friends.

    “Even though David was in treatment again, I was still so angry I could not even pray for him. I asked them to pray for him to heal and that my heart would heal. While I had no hope for our marriage, I didn’t want to hate him. I couldn’t say his name without getting sick to my stomach.”

    By the time David returned from treatment, Ellen had decided it was worth seeing what God could do with their marriage.

    “It was a scary time,” Ellen says. “Both of us believed that God had been mightily at work over the 30 days he was in treatment. We decided it was time to change our entire way of living.

    “Memorial Day 2015 will mark two years since the beginning of our transition. The peace we have today is something we didn’t know existed when we were in the throes of the addiction. It has not been easy, but it has been worth every bit of the time, energy and commitment.”

    If you find yourself where Ellen and David have been, they would like to share some thoughts with you:

    • Few alcoholics or addicts intend to destroy their marriage.

    • It is never too late to seek help. While it was often hard for Ellen and David to see past the shame, pain and embarrassment, getting treatment and allowing others to come alongside them in the midst of their struggle was one of the best moves they made.

    • Stop trying to fix it. Ellen had to acknowledge her role in this situation. She thought she had to fix it alone. When she stopped trying to fix him, things changed.

    • Healthy boundaries are necessary. Boundaries that honor God, yourself and your marriage allow you to make wise decisions. Sometimes leaving for a time is necessary.

    “For all of the men and women who find themselves feeling like they are at the end of their rope, we both want them to know there is hope,” Ellen says. “This has been a very long walk in obedience for both of us. It was so worth being uncomfortable and hanging in there when I didn’t want to and to see how God would take two very broken people and bring healing to our marriage.”

    Where to Find Help

    CADAS: 877-282-2327

    Parkridge Valley Hospital: 423-894-4220

    Bradford Health Services: 423-892-2639

    Alcoholics Anonymous: 423-499-6003

    Al Anon: 423-892-9462

    Celebrate Recovery: chattanoogarecovery.info

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    Addiction and Marriage, Part 1

    When David and Ellen* married, Ellen never suspected David might be an alcoholic.

    “We had a large time with friends and family,” Ellen says. “I knew he drank a lot, but it didn’t cause issues for us. I never felt unsafe. My life looked very normal to everyone around us. David was a good provider and the good far outweighed the bad in our marriage.”

    In 2004, David and Ellen moved to Atlanta with their 6-month-old daughter. While Ellen noticed behaviors in David that raised red flags, she didn’t think it was a big deal.

    “I noticed David was drinking more at night,” Ellen says. “In addition to David being super-stressed at work, I was terribly lonely and did not want to be away from my family. We had some knock-down drag-out fights which I attributed to both of us having too much to drink. Several times I left and stayed with my parents for a while. When I came home, we both apologized and life went back to normal. The fights were few and far between. We did not realize they were warning signs of things to come.”

    In 2008, the couple moved to Chattanooga feeling like this was a great opportunity to advance their lives.

    “I convinced myself that a new house, more money and getting out of Atlanta would help our situation. As time unfolded, things remained the same. We had great times and really bad times. Sometimes I wondered if I was crazy because life could go along for so long and be wonderful, then wham.”

    In 2012, Ellen began to notice a significant difference in David’s behavior.

    “I honestly believed he was having an affair,” Ellen says. “He was unhappy with everything including me and drinking seemed to be the only thing to help him cope and relax. Finally, David acknowledged he had a problem and tried outpatient treatment. Shortly after that he quit his job of 20 years, convinced that was the problem and took a new job in Louisiana. At that point, I was ready to do anything to get my husband back, even leave Chattanooga and friends I loved to support him.”

    In Louisiana, David was only home on weekends, and he hid his drinking well. Unfortunately, things went south pretty quickly. After months of living in denial, Ellen finally acknowledged her husband was an alcoholic. Now with two children, she decided she could no longer live with David. She left with the stipulation that if he went to treatment she would commit to trying to salvage their marriage.

    “While I was gone, David got a DUI and was fired from his job,” Ellen says. “Once again he entered treatment. When he came home, we made a plan to move back to Chattanooga. David found a job pretty quickly. I knew he was having relapses, but I overlooked them thinking that if I could just be a better wife, I could make him better. I now know that was not true.”

    In 2013, David’s life spiraled completely out of control. While David was away on a business trip, his co-worker notified Ellen that David had called to resign from his position - and it sounded like he planned to take his life.

    “At this point in our marriage, we are barely speaking to each other,” Ellen says. “I had no idea where he was and I had no interest in going to find him. I was actually determined not to go - I was tired and had rescued him one too many times. My heart was done with him. Something in my core kept saying, ‘Show him grace one more time.’ I resolved that I did not have to be nice to him, but I had to go get him one more time and then I could be done with him.”

    Read part two of Addiction and Marriage for the rest of the story, and find resources for those who struggle with addiction in their marriage.

    *Names changed to protect privacy

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    For the Guys: Tips for Putting Your Wife First (Without Hurting Mom's Feelings)

    When you tie the knot, family relationships change. 

    Your mom was probably your first teacher, encourager and biggest cheerleader. And chances are, she's one of the first people you've gone to for advice since... well, as long as you can remember. 

    But now things are different, and while your mom is still there for you, your wife takes the top spot.

    Think of it this way: You've added an all-star player to your team who wants to be there for you in every way possible, and she is at the top of your priority list.

    Adapting to marriage and navigating the changing road with Mom will take skill and finesse, especially since you don't want to hurt Mom's feelings, but these tips can help.

    • Do your best to speak positively to your mom about your wife. If your mom starts to criticize her, honor your wife in the conversation. And let Mom know that although you value her opinion, you don't want to hear her speak badly of your bride. 

    • When you and your wife make decisions together, present your decisions as a united front. You should be the one to tell your mother about the choice you made. Don't make it sound like it you only went along with it to avoid rocking the boat--that will only create problems.

    • Check with your wife before making plans with your mom. Never, EVER commit to something with your mother (like bringing her to live with you) without completely talking it over as a couple first.

    • Got problems in your marriage? DO NOT talk about them with Mom unless your bride says she's ok with it. (Hint: Make sure she's REALLY ok with it!)

    • Remember, you're no longer single. Turning to your parents for emotional support is not a bad thing, but turning to them BEFORE you reach out to your wife is not the best idea for your marriage. Your wife is now your number one support system - make sure she knows that.

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    5 Myths About Marriage

    Linda Waite and Maggie Gallagher explore five myths about marriage in The Case for Marriage:

    Myth 1

    Divorce is usually the best answer for kids when a marriage becomes unhappy. The authors discovered that the vast majority of “bad marriages” that don’t end up in divorce eventually become good marriages. In a study of people in “bad” marriages who chose to stay together, 86 percent reported five years later that their marriages had turned around and were now happier. In fact, 60 percent said their marriages had become "very happy."

    Myth 2

    Marriage is primarily for the benefit of children. In reality, marriage has significant benefits for children and adults. Marriage is an important social institution that delivers big benefits in virtually every indicator science can measure.

    Myth 3

    Marriage is good for men but bad for women. Waite said a balanced look at the research shows that married men and women both report less anxiety and depression, higher self-esteem, more financial stability, and a much higher level of general happiness. The research is compelling that people do better when they get married and stay married.

    Myth 4

    Promoting marriage puts women at risk for violence. In fact, the opposite is true: marriage seems to protect women from domestic violence and personal violence.  Married people are less likely to be victims of interpersonal violence. In studies of domestic violence between partners, married people are substantially less likely than cohabiting people to say that arguments between them became violent (4 percent married, 13 percent cohabiting).

    Myth 5

    Marriage is a private affair of the heart between two adults. Marriage is actually a public, legally binding, religiously supported promise that two people will stay together and act as a team for their entire lives. “Marriage changes the way they see themselves, and it changes the way other people see them and treat them,” Waite says. “It also strengthens the bonds between children and their father’s side of the family.”

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    How Marriage Affects Poverty

    In 2014, a group of liberals and conservatives began discussing inequality and family breakdown, poring over research and developing solutions to this problem. In December 2015, they released their report on poverty and mobility called Opportunity, Responsibility and Security: A Consensus Plan for Reducing Poverty and Restoring the American Dream. 

    “There are a gazillion reports from various think tanks and interests group on this topic, but this is the first time people from opposite sides discussed the facts about the nature of poverty and mobility today,” says report co-author Kay Hymowitz. “This came at a time when it was very difficult for opposite sides to be talking, yet we met and communicated regularly for more than a year. Through shared values and old-fashioned compromise, we defined the problem and offered a solution.”

    The Problem

    Childhood poverty (21.8 percent) is at almost the exact same level today as it was in 1970. Broken down by race:

    • 12 percent of Caucasian children and 33 percent of Hispanic children lived in poverty in 1970. These rates remain unchanged.

    • 42 percent of African American children lived in poverty in 1970, compared to 38 percent in 2012.

    “Despite living in a richer country than we were in 1970, we have done very little to address child poverty,” Hymowitz says. “One of the major reasons for this number staying so stubbornly high is children are growing up in very different circumstances than in the past.”

    Consider the following information:

    Unwed births increased dramatically between 1970 and 2010.

    • Black: 37.6 percent to 72 percent

    • Caucasian: 5.7 percent to 35.9 percent

    • Hispanic (1990 to 2010): 36.7 percent to 53.4 percent

    While the number of unwed births have somewhat stabilized recently, the rates remain very high. In fact, unmarried mothers under the age of 30 account for almost 50 percent of the births.

    “In 1970, the large majority of women at age 35 were married and living with children,” Hymowitz says. “By 2010, only about 51 percent were married and living with children. In 1970, only 9 percent of women were single mothers at 35. Today, that number is 20.5 percent. This is the number we want to study.”

    According to the Census Bureau, the percentage of poor families with children breaks down like this:

    • Single-parent female-headed families living in poverty: 37.1 percent

    • Married families with children living in poverty:  6.8 percent

    “There is no way to talk about poverty at this point in history without addressing the breakdown of marriage,” says Hymowitz.

    What else causes people to be poor? 

    Low paying jobs and lack of jobs contribute to poverty. When you look at the landscape of the labor force since 1980, some very interesting transitions have taken place.

    • The percentage of men who are working has decreased from 72 percent in 1980 to 64.4 percent in 2012. For African American men, the numbers have gone from 61 percent to 49.6 percent.

    • Women are more likely to be working. That number has gone from 39.9 percent in 1980 to 59.4 percent in 2012.

    • Wages have become stagnant for low-wage and middle-wage men.

    • The percentage of men who have left the workforce has doubled, along with the percentage of men without a college degree.

    • The percentage of men in the labor force is lower in the U.S. than every other country in the industrialized world except Israel.

    • Women are earning more than ever before.

    “These trends affect each other,” Hymowitz says. “Fewer men are working. Those who are working are making less. Women are making more and can manage, even if it’s not very well. Not only are they earning more, they get a lot more in the way of benefits.

    “When you add all the benefits, the official poverty rate comes down significantly from 47.6 percent to 24 percent. The conditions in which people are deciding how to manage their domestic lives has changed significantly. Couples see no reason to marry even if they have children. Children are the ones who pay the price for the breakdown of marriage and stable family life.”

    Can the children escape from poverty?

    Research indicates that 43 percent of children who are born to poor parents will be poor themselves. Both liberals and conservatives are especially concerned about this number.

    Potential Solutions

    “Three areas need to be addressed together: work, education and family,” Hymowitz says. “These three areas of life are what have to work pretty well for you to get ahead. They interconnect. We concluded that the 21st century reality demands that we address all three together at the same time. You can’t pull one out and work solely on that one. This is what set our group apart from other groups who have examined this issue.

    “You can strengthen families, but without an education opportunity, children can’t fully benefit from the additional time and resources that two parents provide. You can improve the workforce, but if the education system fails to provide the needed knowledge and skills to the next generation, then wages will remain low. If the education system dramatically improves, but work opportunities are limited, then knowledge and skill-building will be less effective and less-rewarded. If the education system improves but a greater number of children are growing up in unstable homes, it is highly likely they will struggle with discipline, persistence and achievement – especially so for boys.

    “Growing up in a family where you cannot have the kind of stability that allows you to concentrate on your homework impacts your ability to do well in school. This impacts your ability to find a job, which impacts your ability to provide for a family. Education, work and family lay the foundation and reinforce each other. If you take one of these components away, the entire thing collapses. We organized our thinking about solutions around three values:

    • Opportunity: The group recognized that social and economic changes were combining in new ways that threatened to make it harder for children to achieve the American dream. Each man and woman should be able to attain to the fullest stature to which they are capable. The circumstances into which they were born shouldn't matter.

    • Responsibility: Individuals can’t just wait for opportunity to fall into their laps. It is far better to earn money than to depend on assistance, and better to be responsible parents for children. This is essential to getting ahead.

    • Security: It is important to provide people with a certain amount of security. Life throws curve balls beyond any one person’s responsibility, so we need to provide a certain amount of security for those who are hit hard.

    “As we focused on our three values, we realized that in the U.S. at this time marriage offers the best chance for children to thrive,” Hymowitz says.

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    Good News About Marriage and the Divorce Rate

    Shaunti Feldhahn, Harvard grad and ground-breaking social researcher, has worked on Capitol Hill and Wall Street. She currently uses her analytical skills to investigate changes impacting family and workplace relationships.

    “For the last eight years, I have been analyzing what the numbers say about marriage, divorce and remarriage in America,” says Feldhahn. “This started by accident as I was working on a newspaper column and wanted to correctly cite the divorce rate. But I found numbers that didn’t match the discouraging conventional wisdom at all. This piqued my curiosity and sent me down a totally different research path.”

    What Feldhahn found was shocking. Although researchers continue to project that half of marriages will end in divorce (relying in part on a government study that primarily focused on a high-risk group), we have never come close to hitting that average for society as a whole.

    Instead, according to the Census Bureau’s 2009 SIPP report, 71 percent of women are still married to their first spouse. The 29 percent who aren’t includes those widowed, not just divorced. Feldhahn estimates that roughly 20-25 percent of first marriages have ended in divorce. Even among baby boomers who have the highest divorce rate, seven in 10 marriages are still intact!

    “This is huge,” Feldhahn says. “We have a culture-wide feeling of futility about marriage because for years all of us - including me - have said that 50 percent of marriages end in divorce. But that sense of discouragement makes it so easy to give up. We have to change the conventional wisdom so people know that most marriages last a lifetime.”

    Additional findings from Feldhahn’s research indicate:

    • Most marriages are happy – on average, 80 percent are happy.

    • The vast majority of remarriages survive.

    • The divorce rate is not the same in the church – among those who attend church regularly, divorce drops by 25-50 percent.

    • Marriage isn’t as complicated as people think – small changes can make a big difference.

    “I’ve done seven nationally representative studies of men, women and marriage. The common denominator in whether a marriage survives or fails is whether the couple has a sense of hope or futility,” Feldhahn says. “Feeling ‘We’re going to make it’ leads to a different outcome than, ‘This is never going to get better.’ So instead of believing it is futile to try, couples need to know that millions of marriages in our country are thriving. And that is the norm.”

    Feldhahn acknowledges that plenty of marriage problems still exist. But her surveys also show that the big ticket items, such as addiction, abuse or affairs, do not cause most marriage problems. Instead, most of the time husbands and wives care about each other and try hard, but in the wrong areas. They end up sabotaging a perfectly good marriage.

    “This means that it is less complicated than people think to get it right; it’s not rocket science,” Feldhahn says. “The most important thing couples can do is commit to making their marriage work, believe the best of their spouse’s intentions toward them, and make sure they have the right tools in their tool belt as they go through their marriage.”