Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Would you be shocked to learn

That this survey, described in this story, suggests that we’re further decoupling marriage and having children? At first glance, this doesn’t reflect well on us, as it seems we increasingly care about personal fulfillment, from which children are increasingly regarded as a distraction.

More when I’ve had a chance to read and think about the survey, and not just the article.

Update: I can’t resist quoting the headline on RC2’s post: "Never mind the future, dear, just do the dishes."

Discussions - 4 Comments

Studies like this that confirm what we see around us are not surprising, but are terribly depressing nonetheless. I teach a Courtship/Marriage class at Wofford on a fairly regular basis (using the Leon and Amy Kass book among other things), and find on the other hand that there are many students who hunger for the truth about their sexuality and who are likely to find a genuinely human way in our social fog. The study does seem to indicate that when a married couple has a child nature kicks in. How revealing that the one on one "relationship" is said to matter most but is so easily broken.

I always squirm when I see that a survey is from telephone interviews. Maybe I just do not understand such things as precise statistical analyses, but it seems to me that what you would get from telephone interviews are people who happen to have time to talk. People genuinely involved with their children or otherwise satisfactorily busy at home might be underrepresented in such a survey. Maybe it is just me, but I have said, "No, thank you." to most such things.

That said, it is a pity that one on one "relationships" (Robert aptly puts it) are sought, but so many people seem to have lost the willingness or toleration, perhaps, to make a marriage last. I have read previous studies that indicate that the trend to cohabitation does that inclination no good at all. Cohabitation is taken to be the same as marriage, but it is not the same - or maybe it is, if you are entirely willing to divorce.

I have decided that I hope this is one of those surveys we read that is carefully debunked by somebody reputable. Otherwise, it is just too depressing for further words.

Kate, the pollster, Yankelevitch (spelling?) wrote a book some years ago called "Rush to Judgement" in which he cautioned against putting too much stock in this kind of survey. The questions catch people off guard, they have no time to think so they just say the first thing that comes to mind--maybe what they heard someone else say or what they think is the "correct" thing to say. There is no cost to them in doing this, it works, satisfices the questioner and moves the process along. However, the resulting data is corrupt. In this case, the public airways are full of libertarian type talk and if people answer conventionally, they will not say "children" should be primary or "marriage is an insstitution established by God to help men and women save their souls."

Attitudes toward abortion and sexual promiscuity have improved (in the opinions of people like us)since 1990, but probably not enough to counter the influence of conventional talk. I would say that at the least, the survey shows a downward trend in the way marriage and children are discussed in the public square. So maybe, as our Tocquevillian, Peter Lawler, might put it, things are getting better AND worse.

Christina, thank you for the better and the worse of the thing. I am becoming inclined to think that we ought to take marriage as covenant and leave it to the church. The state has corrupted that, making marriage the most easily broken contract. If government sanctioned marriage is going to be so useless in the matter of protecting children, why should the state bother? One of the largest buildings in the city of Cleveland is the one that monitors and collects child support payments.

I am having a bad time with the subject of marriage today. I have just heard of the divorce of personal friends. This couple has 12 children and has been married for nearly thirty years. Only - only - five children are still at home. I don't know what happened, but it better have been over more than who was supposed to do the dishes.

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