Mark Regnerus on the Positives of Marrying Young

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Too bad real life isn't like that. Marriage actually works best as a formative institution, not an institution you enter once you think you're fully formed. We learn marriage, just as we learn language, and to the teachable, some lessons just come easier earlier in life. "Cursed be the social wants that sin against the strength of youth," added Tennyson to his lines about springtime and love.

I realize that marrying early means that you engage in a shorter search. In the age of online dating personality algorithms and matches, Americans have become well acquainted with the cultural (and commercial) notion that melding marriage with science will somehow assure a good fit. But what really matters for making marriage happen and then making it good are not matches, but mentalities: such things as persistent and honest communication, conflict-resolution skills, the ability to handle the cyclical nature of so much of marriage, and a bedrock commitment to the very unity of the thing. I've met 18-year-olds who can handle it and 45-year-olds who can't.

Today, there's an even more compelling argument against delayed marriage: the economic benefits of pooling resources.

Read the whole piece.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchMarriage & FamilyYoung Adults

5 Comments
Posted April 25, 2009 at 3:25 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. D. C. Toedt wrote:

All good reasons. There’s a big reason that the author omits, namely the huge gap in fertility between so many ‘Western’ cultures and those of the Muslim world.

(I read not long ago that a Muslim woman, who killed herself and others as a suicide bomber, left behind 41 (!) grandchildren.)

Europe is already experiencing the consequences of this disparity in fertility. And Israel knows that, if it were to allow the ‘right of return’ to the so-called Palestinians, it would be demographically overwhelmed, and in comparatively short order would lose either its democracy or its character as a Jewish homeland — and, given the track record of the Taliban, Hizbollah, Hamas, Fatah, etc., it might well lose both.

We can always hope that improved access to the Internet, MTV, etc., will result in better-educated women in the Muslim world.  An increase in education among women is usually followed by a drop in fertility.  But hope is not a plan, as politicians love to say these days.  And it likely will take at least a couple of generations for women in the Muslim world to achieve the kind of status that would permit them to be educated, and then lead to a drop in fertility.

The implication:  If we want ‘Western’ ways to still be competitive demographically in 50 or 100 years, we need to be encouraging our young people to have lots of babies — and to do so within marriage, still the most successful social arrangement for child-rearing. That means our young people need to be marrying and starting their families earlier than many of us did.

April 25, 6:49 pm | [comment link]
2. lauren wrote:

This is an interesting piece, and there’s much that’s good in it, but I’m not convinced it’s directly relevant to single young adults who have a high level of religious committment.  For them, the problem is not—as it may be for their secular peers—delaying committment to a spouse by a string of casual relationships or prolonged cohabitation.  Rather, the problem is finding the person to whom they should commit.  So really, telling young adults to stop delaying and get married is only relevant if they are procrastinating. If they are not, then a response like this is irritating and unhelpful. I suspect that for many Christians in their twenties, the problem is a lack of suitable prospective partners more than cowardice, selfishness, or procrastination.  This is a very different problem that requires different solutions.

April 25, 7:25 pm | [comment link]
3. Katherine wrote:

I agree with D.C.  Americans must reacquire the belief that marriage and children are good.

And I have daughters in their twenties, so I also agree with lauren.  Young women who don’t want to have casual sex are at a great disadvantage today, and “dating” is gone.  It’s difficult for such people to find prospective mates.

April 26, 4:11 am | [comment link]
4. RichardKew wrote:

#3, it is my observation on both sides of the Atlantic not that dating has gone, but among many people, younger and older, dating means being sexual with one another.

April 27, 5:23 am | [comment link]
5. Katherine wrote:

Yes, #4, RichardKew, which means that people who decline casual sex don’t “date.”  The old “how about a movie?” is gone.  Going to the movie and declining bed afterwards has become strange.

April 27, 10:06 am | [comment link]
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