We often hear the phrase marriage matters. In a recent article written by Kimberly Howard and Richard V. Reeves of the Brookings Institute interesting new research takes a look at the question why? Why does marriage matter? Can it be broke down into a few simple factors or is there bigger meaning infused in the experience of marriage that offers advantages to children? The article, titled “The Marriage Effect: Money or Parenting” puts in simple terms what the researchers were looking at. Is money the determinant factor or the additional parenting resources and energy provided by a two-parent household?
According to the authors the two key take aways from the research are…
1) Children from married households do much better and are more likely to thrive.
“Children raised by married parents do better at school, develop stronger cognitive and non-cognitive skills, are more likely to go to college, earn more, and are more likely to go on to form stable marriages themselves.”
2) The research shows that some of the “marriage effect” can be attributed to the “parenting effect” and the “money effect.”
“The benefits of marriage in terms of children’s outcomes and life chances seem clear. The difficulty is teasing out the key factors. Our analysis suggests that both the higher incomes and the more engaged parenting of married parents count for a good deal. If anything, parenting may matter a little more.”
The article claims that the two key factors, more money and more engaged parenting are the most dominant factors affecting the outcome for kids. While it is easy to understand how those two things have a positive effect on kids it isn’t entirely easy to understand if there is an additional benefit of the experience kids have living in a household with married parents. Is it possible that there is a concrete benefit to kids witnessing the day to day experience of a marriage. There are certainly myriad factors involved not the least of which is the kind of marriage children grow up in. It would certainly be of benefit for children to witness good communication in marriage . On the flip side is a toxic marriage going to have a negative effect on a child’s well being and health? In addition, will more money and resources for parents who aren’t married result in the same outcome? There may be no easy answer to that question, it is though an important question for couples, communities and larger institutions to look at in an attempt to understand why marriage matters.