For the Sake of the Children: How a Stable Marriage is Linked to Well-being

IDEAS Research Workshop Featuring Dr. W. Bradford Wilcox


Last Friday’s presentation by Dr. Wilcox is something I will never forget.

Not only was this presentation informative and educational, but it also challenged a multitude of extremely popular concepts and beliefs.

I personally left with a deep mixture of understanding and curiosity that propelled me into hours of my own Google research on this subject.

If you are an open-minded thinker who loves to learn about fascinating topics, then this presentation is perfect for you.

Who is Dr. Wilcox?

As the director of the National Marriage Project and a professor of sociology at the University of Virginia, Dr. W. Bradford Wilcox has done extensive research on marriage, parenthood, and cohabitation.

He specifically focuses on how marriage, gender, and culture influence the quality and stability of family life in the United States and around the globe.

With published articles in The American Sociological Review, Social Forces, The Journal of Marriage and Family, and The Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, it is safe to say he is immensely knowledgeable on this topic.

Not to mention he has a Ph.D. from Princeton University.

In addition to all those prestigious achievements, Dr. Wilcox also has a more personal connection to this topic. 

He was raised by an amazing single mom.

Given his upbringing and education, Dr. Wilcox was an enthralling person to hear discuss the question:

What is the Best Family Structure for Children?

This was the essential question that Dr. Wilcox set out to answer during the presentation.

To do this, he compared two different family structures: Intact and Non-Intact.

I had never heard those terms before, but they are relatively easy to understand.

An intact family is one in which there are two parents who are married.

A non-intact family is one in which marriage does not exist (divorce, death, single-parent adoption, etc.).

So which is better for children?

Recently, as Dr. Wilcox explained, there has been a strong push in society to say that all family structures are equally beneficial for children.

According to Dr. Wilcox, that is a huge myth.

A presentation providing a viewpoint that goes against a popular societal belief? I was all ears!

He went on to cite a plethora of compelling research, statistics, and facts.

For example, there is a correlation between family structure and a child’s likelihood of male incarceration, teen depression, and growing into a middle/higher income adult.

Meaning that a child in a non-intact family is more likely to be incarcerated, depressed, and poor as an adult compared to children raised in intact families.

I was shocked by these statistics but, of course, had my reservations.

“I wonder how much of that is due to income, not family structure?” I wondered to myself.

He must have read my mind because he also revealed research that showed family structure is a stronger determinant than income in all three of those categories (male incarceration, teen depression, and poverty as an adult).

Clearly, Dr. Wilcox’s research showed that family structure is still extremely important when raising children.

So What Should We Do?

According to Dr. Wilcox, the answer isn’t to shame or look down upon non-intact families.

He clarified that all his research is based on averages, and just because someone is a single parent doesn’t mean they are a bad parent and will raise a bad kid.

He pointed out that he came from an amazing single parent himself, and he turned out all right (he turned out more than alright if you ask anyone at the presentation).

What he did suggest, though, is that raising children in an intact household should still be the goal.

For the sake of children, he calls on each of us to do our best to raise children in a family led by a strong and healthy marriage.

If you are interested in this topic, I highly recommend watching the recorded presentation here and register for the upcoming IDEAS Research Workshops in the same place.

I have attended two of these events so far, and I highly recommend them to anyone who loves learning about topics that are shaping our world.

Posted on October 28th, 2020 by Shane Corbett in Ideas