And maybe sooner rather than later. That suggestion from a sociologist who has studied the subject.
*Scroll down for updates.
There's been chatter in the blogosphere of late about the benefits of marriage and babies. RS McCain takes a radical view and proposes that marrying young is a good thing, and that Christians might want to take the words "be fruitful and multiply" to heart. My response here.
Now, from yesterday's Washington Post, a secular argument for earlier marriage: Say Yes. What Are You Waiting For? by Mark Regnerus. (On the same page is an account of the decision to marry 'early' -- age 26 -- from an editor of Self magazine. More on that below.)
Excerpts from Mr. Regnerus:
First, what is considered "early marriage" by social scientists is commonly misunderstood by the public. The best evaluations of early marriage -- conducted by researchers at the University of Texas and Penn State University -- note that the age-divorce link is most prominent among teenagers (those who marry before age 20). Marriages that begin at age 20, 21 or 22 are not nearly so likely to end in divorce as many presume. . . .There's a great deal of social pressure on young women to wait and wait:
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. . . .
My wife and I married at 22 with nothing to our name but a pair of degrees and some dreams. We enjoy recounting those days of austerity, and we're still fiscal conservatives because of it, better poised to weather the current crisis than many, because marriage is an unbelievably efficient arrangement and the best wealth-creating institution there is. Married people earn more, save more and build more wealth compared with people who are single or cohabiting. (Say what you will about the benefits of cohabitation, it's a categorically less stable arrangement, far more prone to division than marriage.) We can combine incomes while reducing expenses such as food, child care, electricity, gas and water usage. Marriage may be bourgeois, but it's also the greenest of all social structures. Michigan State ecologists estimate that the extra households created by divorce cost the nation 73 billion kilowatt hours of electricity and more than 600 billion gallons of water in a year. That's a mighty big carbon footprint created in the name of solitude. Marriage may not make you rich -- that's not its purpose -- but a biblical proverb reveals this nifty side effect: "Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work."
Sara, a 19-year-old college student from Dallas, equated thinking about marrying her boyfriend with staging a rebellion. Her parents "want my full attention on grades and school because they want me to get a good job," she told me. Understandable. But our children now sense that marrying young may be not simply foolish but also wrong and socially harmful. And yet today, as ever, marriage wisely entered into remains good for the economy and the community, good for one's personal well-being, good for wealth creation and, yes, good for the environment, too. We are sending mixed messages.
More on this in the aforementioned column by Erin Hobday.
If age 26 is considered young in her circle, let's say that marrying between age 30 and 35 is considered average by these educated young women. In this scenario, after 10-15 years of contracepting, the not-so-young woman tries to turn her fertility back on. When this doesn't work as well as the couple hopes, they consult Dr. Frankenstein, who may or may not be able to help them obtain the child they're now so desperate to have. Does it not strike you as ironic when this story ends with the placement of the treasured child in full-time daycare? Just for the record, I hate daycare. I think it's bad for kids. And just for fun, here's a poem about marriage.
*Update: May I direct your attention to RS McCain's post about Jessica Valenti's book, The Purity Myth: How America's Obsession with Virginity Is Hurting Young Women. Here's one awesome quote:
Common-sense observations about human nature are now politicized as "conservative," so that every knocked-up 15-year-old can be said to be engaged in liberal activism and her baby-daddy is a "community organizer" of sorts.And another:
Dishonest writers like Valenti seek mainstream acceptance of their ideology by expressing it in mild language that won't offend the soccer moms. The critic who distills their argument to its radical essence -- as is my wont -- will naturally be denounced as an extremist. Which I suppose is true in the sense that it takes one to know one. But one cannot be moderate in the discussion of virtue, which allows no compromise.**Welcome, Creative Minority readers. For other topics of interest, see labels on lower left sidebar.
One is virtuous or one is not, and while I have never claimed to be a paragon of virtue, I can at least distinguish between virtue and vice. And must, lest I incur the ancient curse:
Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil . . . -- Isaiah 5:20 KJV
A perverse non-judgmentalism, that refuses to praise virtue or condemn vice, is moral nihilism. Valenti goes beyond this, to celebrate whoredom and condemn chastity.
***John Derbyshire quotes Dr. Johnson on marrying young:
I believe it will be found that those who marry late are best pleased with their children, and those who marry early with their partners.****Ramesh Ponnuru takes comments on the Regnerus article here.
*****RS McCain continues the discussion here, including links to those who disagree.
******Here's an interconnected chain of posts on marrying early: Elizabeth Foss, Rebecca Teti, and Frederica Mathewes-Green. The first two are from last fall and the third is from 2005.
Provocative thoughts from Mathewes-Green:
In fact, I have a theory that late marriage contributes to an *increased* divorce rate. During those lingering years of unmarried adulthood, young people may not be getting married, but they’re still falling in love. They fall in love, and break up, and undergo terrible pain, but find that with time they get over it. This is true even if they remain chaste. By the time these young people marry they may have had many opportunities to learn how to walk away from a promise. They’ve been training for divorce.And from Elizabeth Foss, pure anecdotal support for marrying young:
Late marriage means fighting God’s design for our bodies, and that’s never a fight we can win. My hobbyhorse in the project of restoring a viable idea of adulthood is to encourage finding ways to support and enable young marriage. A couple of years ago I wrote a piece detailing some recommendations for this, which I gave the intentionally shocking title, "Let’s have more teen pregnancy."
This year, I've been married half my life--the better half, by far. I know the boy my husband was and I was there, holding his hand, as he became a man. We have history together and sometimes, it's history that gets you through the rough patches. We also had energy and youth and--frankly--hormones on our side in those early days of growing. Now, I think that perhaps the habits of affection step in and take over when energy and youth and hormones fail. We know each other. We know what works and what doesn't. It's not perfect. We still have rough patches, but time has always been on our side.Most recent posts here.