Marriage best for children….yes but….

Marriage is best for raising children, Government says
It is better for children to be raised by two parents than one, and better still when those parents are married, the Government will declare today.

We have a logical problem here.

Is it that the sort of people who get married either when they have children or in order to have children are better at raising children? Or is it that marriage itself is better at raising children?

And can anyone think of any method at all of checking that?

11 comments on “Marriage best for children….yes but….

  1. Maybe take a group of people who’re not currently allowed to marry (but who can have children through various different means), work out their parenting skills at present, and then see whether the ones who get married when marriage within that group is legalised are the ones who you’ve assessed as the best parents?

    Tim adds: As a piece of research that would work just great. Although I’m not convinced that that is the clinching argument in favour of gay marriage though….

  2. I would think it easier to test the opposite proposition: that the chaotic, who are less likely to be good parents, are also less likely to marry.

    Would that not show that marriage and good parenting is more correlation than causation?

  3. How about study those that get married, have children but subsequently divorce?

    The parents would qualify as “the sort of people that get married”, and we may be able to identify variances in the child raising results. Some of these now-divorced parents may subsequently move in with a new partner with or without marrying, so we can therefore study:

    . married couple with child(ren)
    . divorced single parent with child(ren)
    . co-habiting couple with child(ren)
    . remarried couple with child(ren)

    and with the control:

    . married couple with child(ren) that doesn’t divorce

    If there are identifiable patterns within and between the above groups then we could draw conclusions about the beneficial effects or otherwise of marriage.

  4. Study widows/widowers for enforced, as opposed to chosen, single parenthood. Can control against couples with children.

    Sadly think the study group should be large enough.

  5. Agree with Mark – a good study would be to look at children where one parent has died. However this would need to be adjusted for changes in income: loss of breadwinner could make for unfavourable outcomes, or in some rare cases a substantial life insurance payout might actually improve outcomes. Also whether the remaining parent remarried might be an important indicator.

  6. Ask and thou shalt receive. Not fully conclusive (for fairly obvious reasons), but solid:

    Does marriage matter for children?

    This paper examines whether parental marriage confers educational advantages to children relative to cohabitation. We exploit a dramatic marriage boom in Sweden in late 1989 created by a reform of the Widow’s Pension System that raised the attractiveness of marriage compared to cohabitation to identify the effect of marriage. Sweden’s rich administrative data sources enable us to identify the children who were affected by parental marriage due to this marriage boom. Our analysis addresses the policy relevant question whether marginal marriages created by a policy initiative have an impact on children. Using grade point average at age 16 as the outcome variable, we first confirm the expected pattern that children with married parents do better than children with cohabiting parents. However, once we control for observable family background, or use instrumental-variables estimation to compare the outcomes for those children whose parents married due to the reform with those children whose parents remained unmarried, the differences disappeared. A supplementary sibling difference analysis also supports the conclusion that the differentials among children of married and cohabiting parents reflect selection rather than causation.

    http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1049041

  7. It does seem to me to be very likely, that the personal attributes which would lead to a stable marriage, would also likely lead to effective and successful parenting, and grandparenting. But not only that, I would expect a noticeable correlation between marital stability and economic self-sufficiency.
    Staying power, patience,reliability, the ability to stay focussed on your priorities, tolerance, all of these qualities help you to succeed in many different aspects of life. Truly transferrable skills.

    We can’t engender those qualities by promoting marriage or raising barriers to divorce, that would be like trying to stop the rain by prohibiting umbrellas. It is true that back in the 50s and 60s, marriage was the norm, and family breakdown was rare, especially among the working and middle classes. But this was mainly because the naturally flighty had had some degree of self discipline drummed into them, divorce carried a stigma, and the welfare state was not generous. So the unfortunate spouses of the deadbeats were more likely to endure their misery in silence, for the sake of their children.

    Far from promoting marriage from a moral standpoint, the state should stop trying to compensate for delinquency. People who are living together confer upon eachother none of the material security that marriage or civil partnership invokes. It should be made clear to them that the arrangement provides them with no matrimonial rights.

  8. john b – “Maybe take a group of people who’re not currently allowed to marry (but who can have children through various different means)”

    But you would have to be sure that the two groups you are comparing are comparable. Most people who are not allowed to marry now are not comparable in many ways. Although I suppose married siblings might make a valid group for comparison. Others? Not so much.

  9. Monty – “We can’t engender those qualities by promoting marriage or raising barriers to divorce, that would be like trying to stop the rain by prohibiting umbrellas.”

    That analogy doesn’t work because rain is a natural phenomenon that we have no control over. Divorce is entirely in our hands. We makes choice. Some of those choices lead to divorce. Some do not. Obviously if we raise barrier to divorce, we make divorce less likely. Especially as there are virtually no cases where people have good reason for divorce. They simply prefer to make other choices.

    “But this was mainly because the naturally flighty had had some degree of self discipline drummed into them, divorce carried a stigma, and the welfare state was not generous.”

    So we have a series of choices we can make here too. We can stop being so generous to people who divorce. That alone would solve a lot of problems. Because then divorce would carry a stigma. Instead of being a “cost-free” and “painless” life style choice, it would involve abandoning your children to hardship. That would soon solve the self discipline problem too.

    “So the unfortunate spouses of the deadbeats were more likely to endure their misery in silence, for the sake of their children.”

    I do not immediately see a downside to this. At least not compared to the alternative. Children do better when parents stay together even if they are not happy.

    “Far from promoting marriage from a moral standpoint, the state should stop trying to compensate for delinquency.”

    Six of one, half a dozen of the other. They could do both.

  10. SMFS, I agree that we could in theory reintroduce all of that context, and the number of children whose lives and prospects are blighted by family breakdown would reduce. In particular, the tendency for

    There would, of course, be a whole lot of screaming and tantrums if such a regime was actually implemented. I suspect we would both be quite prepared to weather that storm and plough on with the necessary reforms. But no government with an eye on the next election, would ever do so.

Leave a Reply

Name and email are required. Your email address will not be published.