The FamilyScholars blog is hosting a symposium on marriage this week to mark the release of “The President’s Marriage Agenda for the Forgotten Sixty Percent” (PDF here), a new report from the National Marriage Project and the Institute for American Values. The “sixty percent” in the title refers to the roughly three in five Americans who have graduated from high school but not from college—a group whose members are rapidly becoming less likely to marry and more likely to have children outside of marriage, with all the disadvantages those trends imply.
In my contribution, I argue that we can’t talk about the marriage crisis without talking about sex. Here’s a taste:
The breakdown of marriage stems not only from economic factors but also from changing standards in the realm of sex, dating, and intimate relationships. Making these standards more conducive to marriage is as crucial as political reform if we are to restore the institution.
Let’s start by acknowledging that there is no such thing as consequence-free sex. No form of contraception is 100 percent effective; even a one-night stand can result in the creation of a child. Aside from pregnancy, sex has dramatic effects on physical, mental, and emotional health. Hookups, for instance, significantly increase teenagers’ and female college students’ risk of depression. The more lifetime sexual partners an adult woman has, the more likely she is to be depressed and to report a lower level of life satisfaction. Sexual satisfaction is highestand the risks of sex lowest in the context of marriage.
Elsewhere in the symposium, Ryan Anderson argues against redefining marriage, Isabel Sawhill doubts that today’s trends can be reversed, Barbara Dafoe Whitehead discusses pathways to successful relationships, Katelyn Beaty asks what churches can do, and Kevin Noble Maillard criticizes marriage stereotypes. To view the whole discussion, visit FamilyScholars.