How parenting can save marriage

Parenting can save marriage, writes Richard V. Reeves in The Atlantic. Marriage used to be the norm for young Americans, he writes. Now it’s the exception.

In 1960, more than 70 percent of all adults were married, including nearly six in ten twentysomethings. Half a century later, just 20 percent of 18-29-year olds were hitched in 2010

A new version of marriage —”egalitarian, committed and focused on children” — is emerging, writes Reeves. “College graduates in the United States are reinventing marriage as a child-rearing machine for a post-feminist society and a knowledge economy. It’s working, too: Their marriages offer more satisfaction, last longer, and produce more successful children.”

. . . engaged, committed parenting is hugely important. Simply engaging with and talking to children has strong effects on their learning; reading bedtime stories accelerates literacy skill acquisition; encouraging physical activity and feeding them balanced meals keeps them healthy, strong and alert.

However, as high-intensity parenting (HIP) couples team up to raise their children, the “marriage gap” is growing.

Less-educated women are ever more likely to be single parents struggling to raise children with little emotional or financial support.

A lack of “marriageable” men is a common explanation. It is clear that the labor market prospects of poorly-educated men are dire. But the language itself betrays inherent conservatism. “Marriageability” here means, principally, breadwinning potential. Nobody ever apparently worries about the “marriageability” of a woman: Presumably she just has to be fertile.

. . . men with children are something more than just potential earners: They are fathers. And what many children in our poorest neighborhoods need most of all is more parenting.

If the mother has the best chance in the labor market, the father can take on the important job of raising the children, Reeves writes. 

I’m old-fashioned. I find this vision depressing.

NBC is premiering two “feel-good sitcoms that examine the healing properties of broken homes, reports the New York Times. “Television executives seem eager to make the case that divorce doesn’t damage children and, in some cases, improves them.”

NBC featured an Olympian with an “alternative lifestyle,” notes PJ Media. At 23, free-style skier David Wise is married and has a child.

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  1. Although he mentions “a post-feminist society and a knowledge economy”, he completely forgets to talk about the importance of “twenty-first century skills”. A real intellectual would mention “twenty-first century skills”.

    More seriously, although I’m pretty sure that engaging with and talking to children has strong correlations with their learning, and that reading bedtime stories correlates with literacy skill acquisition, I know of no evidence for cause and effect here.

  2. “Healing power?” Seriously? My parents divorced because it was necessary, but there was nothing “healing” about the next decade of PTSD and courthouse conflict. I have siblings dealing with mental health problems on both sides of the divorce dateline.
    As for divorce in general, since children usually end up with mothers, it’s pertinent that a recent study found that absent fathers are approximately equivalent to having incarcerated fathers:
    “The researchers found negative and pronounced effects of incarceration on fathers’ engagement with children and co-parenting with children’s mothers, but only when fathers were living with their children prior to incarceration. When fathers weren’t living with their children prior to their stint behind bars, their incarceration had no effect on how they interacted with their children during or after release.”

  3. Yes, I’m depressed about it, too. No, I don’t think the answer is that men stay home, while the women work. It’s that the two start treating each other like members of the Family Team. Both valuable, no matter what their financial contribution. All goals are discussed TOGETHER; all FUN and DECISIONS are joint.
    Women, if your mother is not in a SUCCESSFUL marriage (this goes for sisters and girlfriends) – tune her out – do NOT follow her lame advice.
    Men – if your friends and family are not SUCCESSFULLY married, their advice is worth shit.

    • Mark Roulo says:

      Women, if your mother is not in a SUCCESSFUL marriage (this goes for sisters and girlfriends) – tune her out – do NOT follow her lame advice.
      Men – if your friends and family are not SUCCESSFULLY married, their advice is worth shit.

      Unless these folks know that what they have isn’t working out and are willing to venture to you a guess as to what went wrong. Sometimes people offer advice in the form of “I did this and it didn’t work … you might want to do something else.”

  4. These ideas are not entirely new. John Locke saw marriage as a bond necessitated by the project of raising children. Once the project was complete, the parents could legitimately part ways and dissolve the marriage. Granted, within Locke’s proposed family hierarchy, the husband had the upper hand–but the wife, like the husband, had legal rights and rights to property.

    • In her book on marriage, Kay Hymowitz says that for a couple of centuries American marriage has had the raising of children who will be self-reliant and informed citizens—successful Americans– as its major goal. IIRC she called it The Project.