In today’s modern world, seemingly everything has been transformed into something political. Eternal truths and universal lived experiences are ignored, cast aside and ridiculed as outdated and even bigoted. Institutions like marriage and family are remade into political paradigms to serve emerging ideologies. Even science is scorned in order to advance gender ideology.
But despite the constant attempts by groups, especially those on the left, to turn everything into a political matter, much of life has nothing to do with politics and ideology. Take marriage for example. There is nothing about the institution of marriage that is political despite the left’s ceaseless efforts to turn marriage into a political battle as they have sought to redefine it in the law in countless countries around the globe. Marriage is what it is – a universal, timeless relationship between men and women that brings the two halves of humanity together in order to form families to care for the children born of their union. This has been its purpose since the dawn of time.
From time to time, world developments transcend politics and we find ourselves retreating to the safety and familiarity of eternal truths. We are in just such a moment with the COVID-19 coronavirus crisis. All around the world, whether by force of government edict or simple common sense, people are turning inward to protect themselves and their children. As people shelter in place or practice the new art of “social distancing,” many are rediscovering the universal lived experience that families with children anchored by marriage are better positioned to handle the crisis.
Of course, there are some practical elements to this. With two parents at home, the couple can share responsibilities or deal with the particulars of sheltering in place. Perhaps one is better positioned to work from home; perhaps another can then be freed up to conduct home schooling or supervise distance learning. One spouse might be more vulnerable to being laid off than the other spouse. Another might have better access to financial supports. Research shows that married couples are more economically stable and accumulate more wealth than either single parents or those in cohabitating relationships. That will prove most helpful during this crisis.
But beyond the economics are family dynamics. The essence of the marriage relationship is complementarity. Men and women are made for each other, body and soul, equal in every way. But equality does not equate to sameness. Men and women are not the same, they bring different strengths and approaches to everyday life, including to the care of children. This will be useful and beneficial for children, now during the crisis and later when it subsides. A child at home with both mom and dad is likely to experience first hand what research has clearly documented:
- A mother’s inherent instinct is to protect her child, while a father will push his child to take risks.
- The two will play differently with the child, the mother preferring orderly, rule-based games, the father preferring more physical activity, roughhousing and spontaneous activity with fewer rules.
- Dad will joke more with the child than mom, who is more serious.
- The two will discipline their child in different ways. Mom gives more chances and fewer punishments while dad will act more decisively and predictably.
- Dad will praise the child when he feels the child deserves praise, while mom is likely to offer praise as a means of providing comfort and to boost self-esteem. As a result, children often work hard to gain the praise of their fathers.
Eventually, God willing, the COVID-19 crisis will pass and we will return to what we hope will be a normal existence. When this happens, I hope that we don’t forget the eternal truths of marriage, and what it means for children and families.
The overwhelming body of evidence collected by social scientists demonstrates that children raised in a family with their married mother and father are much more likely to enjoy good and healthy relationships with their parents, and with others. They will enjoy better physical and mental health and experience less family instability. They achieve greater educational attainment, including getting better grades and have a lesser chance of being held back and ultimately dropping out of school. These children graduate from high school at a higher rate. They will be more likely to graduate from college and obtain jobs with higher occupational status and earnings, and will experience less unemployment and economic hardship. Boys raised in an intact home typically experience less juvenile delinquency and incarceration, while girls raised in an intact home have a lesser incidence of experiencing a teen pregnancy. Children raised by their married parents will have much less chance of experiencing poverty while growing up.
No other family structure comes close to delivering the enormous benefits to couples and children that does marriage between a man and a woman. Not single parents. Not same sex parents. Not parents who cohabitate.
In reality, we didn’t need social scientists to tell us all the benefits of marriage, not only for couples and children, but for entire societies. The benefits are obvious, observable and experienced by virtually every culture throughout history. Perhaps we might be well-advised during this crisis to resolve to stop treating natural marriage as a political matter and start promoting it as an essential institution integral to enhancing human flourishing.