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The GEM Debate: Raising Children – Is Marriage Really Necessary?

Well, here’s an interesting tidbit about marriage and children…

Turns out in a recent study, The Institute for Fiscal Studies found that marriage didn’t really affect a child’s cognitive or social development. In fact, data show it’s not marriage per se that is of significant benefit to the child, rather how educated the parents are.

Phew – I hope they didn’t spend a ton of money on that one!

Personally I can see how children would grow up for the most part, happy and healthy with parents who are unmarried if the parents are smart; I have countless examples to point to in my own life and we all know of famous examples like Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn. Those of us who are parents know that children are remarkably resilient and adapt well to the reality they are presented with. But does that mean it’s optimal? Do kids need marriage – or is that just what we’ve been telling ourselves for years as a way to justify a familiar social convention.

How many couples raising children find themselves asked the question – ‘so when are you going to get married’ by well meaning friends. I don’t think there’s the stigma to unmarried parents that there used to be – but I think there’s still a certain amount of suspicion, a sense that the parents in question don’t take their relationship as ‘seriously’ as married couples do and aren’t putting their children first.

But maybe some couples just operate better without the rigidity of marriage in place. And really, as we always say here at Good Enough Mother, whatever works for you…

But what do you think? Do you agree that marriage doesn’t seem to provide any critical benefit to children? Are you unmarried parents and if so do you still get asked that key question from friends? Fire away!


  1. Bonnie

    July 25, 2011 at 5:29 pm

    I do not think marriage is necessary for raising happy, healthy children. I do believe commitment to family is necessary. Commitment to your partner and your children. A commitment before God or a JOP may help some people accomplish that level of commitment, but I don’t think everyone needs to be married to build a healthy family.

    Ramble ramble lol

  2. Katie

    July 25, 2011 at 7:47 pm

    Although I do very much believe in the sanctity of marriage, children can grow up well adjusted and emotional healthy in families without “parents.”
    I think in raising children… its the level of the love and commitment, to the children, that is truly important.

  3. Shelley

    July 25, 2011 at 8:29 pm

    If all married couples really took their marriage as “seriously” as they claim us never-married, divorced, same-sex or single by choice parents do, then there wouldn’t be the divorce rate would there? I agree that highly educated, involved and caring parents – and a good relationship if there is one – are all far more important than marriage. And all far better than a bad marriage or where there is fighting all the time around the children!

  4. Rebecca

    July 26, 2011 at 9:01 am

    Let me preface this by saying that I’ve been married a long time. I got married when I was 20 and was married 8 years before we had children, now ages 17 and 9 (you can do the math!). Also, my husband and I both apparently meet the educational standard for parenthood. 🙂

    A couple of comments about one particular paragraph. First, I would NEVER question the quality or validity of someone’s relationship by asking “when are you going to get married?” It’s really none of my business unless asked. Second, I really don’t think it is the purpose of marriage to put children first. The purpose of marriage is to put your spouse first (yeah, I said it!). By taking a vow to do so for life, and believing in that vow and the power it holds, I show my children daily that I have placed the stability and security of their family above all else.

  5. m.e. johnson

    July 26, 2011 at 1:59 pm

    If it was necessary there would be a law, wouldn’t there? No children allowed with aunts, same-sex couples, grandparents, in foster homes and certainly in homes with unmarried parents. Those children would be gathered up and taken… where?

  6. Julie Hutcheson

    July 27, 2011 at 5:58 pm

    So many times when topics like this come up the big debate of religion begins to explode. This is exactly what happened yesterday regarding this piece.

    If you are a person of God, trying to live by his word, this lifestyle likely is not for you. I respect that and in fact, I live that. But do I think that someone who does not live by MY God’s rules is less of a parent? No way. I mean think about it. What does a child need? In my opinion at the top of the list is love and security. Do non-married parents love less because they have chosen a non-Christian way of life? Do they automatically offer less security and safety to a child? I don’t see how.

    As a growing Christian I have certain hopes for my family, friends, community and the world as a whole. Do I wish that others could find the answers that I have in Christ? Yes, but not in the way you might think. I pray for everyone to find the answer that makes sense to them. That frees them and makes their world “click” and make sense. Whatever that may be. As a Christian, I wish that kind of love and peace for everyone.

    It would be easier to just cram my religion down the throat of every person that I come in contact with that differs from my beliefs. But MY God does not want that. My God wants me to live a caring, accepting, honest life. And to be honest means to admit that just because I see Him a certain way and interpret the Bible a certain way doesn’t mean it’s right for everyone.

    You could have a group of 2 people or a group of 200 people all from the same religion all attending the same Church services every week. Pull them aside one by one and each person will have a different version of what their Church believes, what the Bible says and more importantly what they believe. But doesn’t that make sense? We are all made differently. Now imagine the differences of other religions, other families and each individual on this earth. As a Christian it would be easy to stare strait ahead and not see all the other stuff on the sidelines. Lucky for me, my God has shown me that all that stuff on the sidelines is just as important as what is right in front of me. In fact it is crucial to the kind of Christian he wants me to be. God has shown me I can learn from those things if I just open my heart and look. It hasn’t been an easy road. I’m still on it everyday and it can be super curvy and I fall off. A lot. But every time I get back on, I am thankful that I have the “free will” to be able to love God the way that I feel is for me. I can’t even explain how that feels!

    What I can say is if someone can kind that kind of peace, that kind of comfort, in whatever form that may be, don’t let anyone make you feel you shouldn’t or make you feel less for believing so. If raising babies unmarried in a stable loving home is what life and love is to you, who am I to judge. And no one else should feel entitled to either.

  7. Rene Syler

    July 27, 2011 at 6:08 pm

    @Julie: I’m so happy you left a comment here. I thumbed through the thread you are talking about and honestly, someone like you, a self-professed “growing Christian” made more sense and a better argument for God’s love than the woman who WAS cramming her belief’s down everyone’s throat. The sad part is that people like that are completely unaware of how thy come off, not that they would care. Picture, if you will, a two-year-old with their fingers in their ears and stomping their feeds, yelling, “NO NO NO!” That is what it comes off as and is completely distasteful. This is a big, wide world with a lot of people in it who believe a lot of different things. The more that simple concept is understood, I think the better we will be. Welcome to Good Enough Mother!

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Combing the aisles at Target in search of the best deal on Cheerios, it hit Rene Syler like the stench of a dirty diaper on a hot summer’s day. Not only is perfection overrated its utterly impossible! Suddenly empowered, she figuratively donned her cape, scooped up another taco kit for dinner and Good Enough Mother was born.

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