Bernardo M. Villegas
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Get Married and Be Happy (Part II)

           We have considered the correlation between a stable marriage and family life and the happiness of each individual, which in turn has a positive impact on the health of each one.  We should also consider the contribution of marriage and the family to the common good of society.  As Pope Francis wrote in “The Joy of Love,”   “The family is a good which society cannot do without, and it ought to be protected.  The Church has always held as part of her mission to promote marriage and the family and to defend them against those who attack them, especially today, when they are given scarce attention in political agendas.  Families have the right to be able to count on an adequate family policy on the part   of public authorities in the juridical, economic, social and fiscal domains.  At times families suffer terribly when, faced with the illness of a loved one, they lack access to adequate health care, or struggle to find dignified employment.  Economic constraints prohibit a family’s access to education, cultural activities and involvement in the life of society.  In many ways, the present-day economic situation is keeping people from participating in society.  Families, in particular, suffer from problems related to work, where young people have few possibilities and job offers are very selective and insecure.  Workdays are long and oftentimes made more burdensome by extended periods away from home.  The situation does not help family members to gather together or parents to be with their children in such a way as to nurture their relationships each day.”

          In addition to fostering the happiness of each individual in society,  there is clear preponderance of evidences that show that intact, married families are superior—for adults and especially for children—to alternative family arrangements.  In a publication of The Witherspoon Institute in Princeton, New Jersey entitled “Marriage and the Common Good,”  we can find  a great deal of research taken from the anthropological, sociological, psychological, and economic sciences demonstrating the empirical benefits of marriage.   The common good of society is promoted by the institution of marriage in the following ways:

          First, marriage is the institution through which societies seek to organize the bearing and rearing of children; it is particularly important in ensuring that children have the help and support of their father.

          Second, marriage provides direction, order, and stability to adult sexual unions and to their economic, social, and psychological  consequences.

          Third, marriage civilizes men, furnishing them with a sense of purpose, norms, and social status that orient their lives away from vice and toward virtue.

          Marriage achieves its multifarious purposes through both social and biological means that are not easily replicated by the various alternatives to marriage.  When marriage is strong, children and adults both tend to flourish; when marriage breaks down, every element of society suffers.

          The greatest social benefit of marriage and the family has to do with the well-being of children, the very future of every society.  The biggest challenge to modern economies today is the lack of children resulting from very low fertility rates which are way below replacement.  During the last two decades, a large body of social scientific research has emerged indicating that children do best when reared by their mothers and fathers in a married, intact family.  A recent report by Child Trends, a nonpartisan research organization summarized the new scholarly consensus on marriage as follows:  “Research clearly demonstrates that family structure matters for children, and the family structure that helps children the most is a family headed by two biological parents in a low-conflict marriage.  Other recent reviews of the literature on marriage and the well-being of children, conducted by the Brookings Institution, the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and international Affairs at Princeton University, the Center for Law and Social Policy, and the Institute for American Values, have all come to similar conclusions. (To be continued)