The lifelong, faithful union of a man and a woman provides many obvious benefits to society, especially children, in ways that no other relationship can. Government and society should protect and strengthen marriage, not undermine it.

Why Marriage Matters

Does it matter if couples get and stay married? Does it matter if children are raised by the mother and father who brought them into the world? In Why Marriage Matters, a diverse group of leading family scholars summarizes the findings on the difference that marriage makes. To maintain a stable society it is critical we have strong marriages that provide a safe and healthy environment for children to grow.


Marriages and families are the fundamental building block of all human civilization. Strong families are at the foundation of a thriving state and nation. The family plays an essential role in our culture. Marriage increases the likelihood that fathers and mothers have good relationships with their children. Cohabitation is not the same as marriage. Cohabiting couples on average are less committed, less faithful, and more likely to break up than married couples. Marriage typically fosters better romantic and parental relationships compared to other family forms, such as cohabitation. Individuals who have a firm commitment to marriage as an ideal are more likely to invest themselves in their marriage and to enjoy happier marriages.


Divorce and unmarried childbearing increase poverty for both children and mothers. Marriage reduces poverty and material hardship (for example, missing a meal or failing to pay rent) for disadvantaged women and their children.

Physical Health and Longevity

Children who live with their own two married parents enjoy better physical health than do children in other family forms. Marriage is also associated with better health and lower rates of injury, illness, and disability for both men and women.

Mental Health and Emotional Well-Being

Children whose parents divorce have higher rates of psychological problems like depression and other mental illnesses. Divorce is also linked to higher suicide rates.

Crime and Domestic Violence

Boys raised in single-parent families are more likely to engage in delinquent and criminal behavior.

Married men and women are significantly less likely to be perpetrators or victims of crime.

A child who is not living with his or her own two married parents is at significantly greater risk for child abuse.

Cohabitation vs. Marriage

Only one out of three children (33%) born to cohabiting parents remains in a stable family through age 12. In contrast, nearly three out of four children (75%) remain in a stable family through age 12 if the parents are married.  Read “The Risks for Couples Moving in Together.”

The cohabitation instability for children is related to the instability of the overall parent relationship. Couples that cohabitate before marriage are 50% more likely to divorce than those who refrain from cohabitating before marriage. Read “Marriage and Family” at the Massachusettes Family Institute. 

Want to learn more? View the full document: Why Marriage Matters: 26 Conclusions from the Social Sciences

View National Center for Health Statistics for marriage and divorce statistics. The Adoption Statistic is a combination of foreign adoptions plus U.S. foster children adoptions.

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