Young Marriageby Mark Gungor
“A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within.” – Ariel Durant
There has been quite a lot of press recently voicing opposition to young people marrying. Many have decried the marriage of 18-25 year olds as a terrible idea since they are “too young”. But it wasn’t long ago that such marriages would not have been thought of as unusual.
“The traditional markers of manhood — leaving home, getting an education, starting a family and starting work — have moved downfield as the passage from adolescence to adulthood has evolved,” says Michael Kimmel, author of Guyland. For instance, in 1960, almost 70 percent of men had reached these milestones by the age of 30; today, less than a third of males can say the same.
Some of the most successful marriages in the world started with two teenagers. Indeed, it is difficult to reach 75 years of marriage if one waits till he is 30 to say “I do” – you’re pretty much dead by then.
Even biology challenges us to rethink delayed marriage. According to U.S. researchers who analyzed census data and information from genealogical records, children born when their mothers were under 25 were almost twice as likely to live to their 100th birthday and beyond and University of Chicago husband and wife team Dr Leonid Gavrilov and Dr Natalia Gavrilova have shown that firstborn children live longer than their younger siblings. It appears the two are linked, with older children living longer because their mothers are younger when they have them.
Studies have also shown that it takes longer for older men to conceive. Starting in their 20s, men face steadily increasing chances of infertility, fathering an unsuccessful pregnancy, and passing on to their children a genetic mutation that causes dwarfism. “We [now] know the probability for certain types of DNA damage goes up with age, and we can give you a mathematical probability,” said Andrew Wyrobek, a researcher at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, California.
Not only is it bad to our children’s health to delay marriage and child birth, this delay is also resulting in increasingly lower birth rates which may be bad for the longevity of Western culture. According to Mark Steyn, the low birth rates already at play in Europe are a prescription for the end of Western civilization.
Seventeen European nations are now at what demographers call “lowest-low” fertility – 1.3 births per woman, the point at which you’re so far down the death spiral you can’t pull out. In theory, those countries will find their population halving every 35 years or so. In practice, it will be quicker than that, as the savvier youngsters figure there’s no point sticking around a country that’s turned into an undertaker’s waiting room. So large parts of the western world are literally dying – and, in Europe, the successor population to those aging French and Dutch and Belgians is already in place.
Indeed, those who marry younger and produce more children will be the ones who will dominate the US culture in the not-too-distant future. Dr. Arthur Brooks of Syracuse University writes:
Simply put, liberals have a big baby problem: They’re not having enough of them, they haven’t for a long time, and their pool of potential new voters is suffering as a result. According to the 2004 General Social Survey, if you picked 100 unrelated politically liberal adults at random, you would find that they had, between them, 147 children. If you picked 100 conservatives, you would find 208 kids. That’s a ‘fertility gap’ of 41%… A state that was split 50-50 between left and right in 2004 will tilt right by 2012, 54% to 46%. By 2020, it will be certifiably right-wing, 59% to 41%. A state that is currently 55-45 in favor of liberals (like California) will be 54-46 in favor of conservatives by 2020—and all for no other reason than babies.
We know that sexual activity before marriage increases the likelihood of a divorce. We also know that couples who live together also have an even higher rate of divorce. But then we tell young people today that they should wait till they are almost 30 to marry – an age that will most likely guarantee they will have been already sexually active or even living with someone.
Even in the Christian community (a group who should know better) we push and encourage delayed marriage. Christian parents even threaten their young people with negative consequences if they marry young. “We won’t pay for your education!” “You’ll have to pay for your own wedding!” “We’ll disown you!” We pull all financial and emotional support from the young couple and then when they fail, we rush back to them with “I told you so…”
Mormons bring an interesting perspective to marriage. Only 6% of those who follow the demands surrounding a temple marriage end up in divorce. Six percent! But it’s not just a question of getting married in a certain place. Leaders claim it’s that the church requires the candidates for marriage to be people of character—people who stick to their commitments of love and of asking for help, if they need it. What is so striking is that many of these marriages happen between couples still in their teens!
Then there is a threat that almost no one seems to consider: the elimination of grandparents. The culture of divorce that has been ripping and tearing at our national family structure has, so far, failed to destroy us. Though the documentation of the damage divorce does to people and particularly their children is sufficiently solid, American homes (though patched and sown together) have been able to hold together to some degree. This has been in large part due to the presence of grandparents. Those wonderful people who love their grandchildren unconditionally and whose age, wisdom and financial resources have played a key role – in some cases the key role – as stabilizers in those children’s lives. Those who delay marriage (and subsequently child rearing) are denying themselves one of the greatest joys men and women have cherished for millennia: to participate in the lives of their grandchildren.
For centuries, men and women became grandparents when they were in their late 40’s and early 50’s – allowing them plenty of time to enjoy and participate in their grandchildren’s lives. Then in their 70’s and 80’s they witnessed the arrival of their great-grandchildren. People who delay marriage and family today, however, do not realize how greatly they are cheating themselves by making it virtually impossible to experience their grandchildren. And for what? An extended adolescence? To drink more beer or to experiment with more sexual partners? To focus on their careers and a chance to make money more quickly than their parents did?
If Bobby and Suzie wait till almost 30 to marry and then 35 or greater to have children and their children do the same… well just do the math – they’ll be 70 before their first grandchildren are even born. Depending on their health and longevity, they are at risk for not being able to enjoy those children’s lives.
There is an even a greater tragedy that will occur than just people not being able to enjoy their grandchildren. As I already stated, grandparents have been the very glue that has helped struggling families stay together or to at least make their grandchildren feel safe should their parent’s marriage fail. According to US Census Bureau statistics:
- 6.1 million grandparents have grandchildren younger than 18 living with them
- 2.5 million grandparents are responsible for most of the basic needs of one or more grandchildren
- 918,000 grandparents have been responsible for caring for their grandchildren for at least the past five years
- 477,000 grandparents have an income below the poverty level and are still caring for their grandchildren
But by delaying marriage and children today, we are participating in the foolish and systematic removal of grandparents altogether. When the kids of the next generation are 7, 10, or 12 years of age there won’t be many grandparents to speak of. The final blow to the American family will be complete.
Sadly, many pastors and marriage proponents themselves are participating in the destruction of the very institution they seek to save by joining in this foolish call for delayed matrimony.
No matter what the statisticians say, marriages do not fail because of age, money or education – many of the underlying arguments for delaying marriage. Such thinking is utter nonsense. Marriages fail for one reason and one reason only: one or both people become selfish. To imply that young, poor or high-school graduates are incapable of real commitment is an insult. I find it curious that we have young, poor, high-school graduates fighting for our interests overseas with great commitment – some giving the very last measure of commitment by sacrificing their very lives for their fellow soldiers.
Someday historians will write of the end of Western civilization. I am sure that our propensity for selfishness and narcissistic behaviors is what they will point to as the reason for our demise.
Advocating for delayed marriage will be just one more reason we will succeed in destroying ourselves from within.