Unionized: National Marriage Project sets up shop at UVA

news-national-marriage-project-brad-wilcox1Professor Brad Wilcox at the October 21st discussion, "Not So Sacred Vows: Religion and Marriage in America.”

Think marriage is dying? A think tank dedicated to the state of our unions has recently set up shop at the University of Virginia, moving from its previous headquarters at Rutgers University. Since its establishment in 1997 by David Popenoe, the National Marriage Project has investigated the social, economic and cultural forces shaping the quality and stability of married life.

“In our day and age, especially given the divorce rate, marriage is an adventure of sorts,” says UVA professor Brad Wilcox, who began directing the research-driven group over the summer.

In recent years, the Project's research-driven mission has gained popularity among scholars, even one whose name is widely linked to divorce. UVA colleague Robert Emery, whose 2004 book was a roadmap to child-friendly splits, recently climbed aboard the Project's advisory board.

"While I focus on divorce," says this author of The Truth About Children and Divorce, "I know from experience, and from my research, that growing up with two, happily married parents is the best arrangement for children, and for adults too.”

All this promotion of happy marriage has come with some controversy. Another group, the Brooklyn-based Alternatives to Marriage Project, has spoken out against the now UVA-based group for allegedly ignoring the needs of those who can't marry due to legal or moral reasons.

Wilcox declined to address the criticism, choosing instead to reiterate the importance of the National Marriage Project's dedication to strengthening marriage.

"Marriage is an important institution which must be renewed," Wilcox explained. "From a child's perspective, nothing compares to marriage, and this is why the NMP seeks to put a positive spotlight on marriage and to identify strategies to strengthen it.”


How can this group exist, ostensibly to study the state of marriage, yet completely duck the issue of gay marriage - by far the most visible and controversial issue concerning marriage today?

"two, happily married parents is the best arrangement for children, and for adults too.”
If that is well known by Mr. Emery, and this institute has formed to do what's best for children, I certainly hope they will join the reality of the 21st century. Many children are being raised by gay parents who would love to marry but cannot. Will this institute work to change that --for the good of the children and the adults ?

By Sharon Jayson, USA TODAY

So many gay couples today have kids that it has become a cultural phenomenon ââ?¬â?? there's even a new TV show about a modern family that includes a gay couple with an adopted baby.

One in five male couples and one in three lesbian couples were raising children as of the 2000 Census. That's way up from 1990, when one in 20 male couples and one in five lesbian couples had kids

Gay households have more in common than not with their heterosexual counterparts who are also raising kids, the research shows. "The sexual orientation of a parent has really little to do with their parenting," Goldberg says.

But Census numbers are just part of a new comprehensive analysis of research on gay parenting since the 1970s in the new book "Lesbian and Gay Parents and Their Children: Research on the Family Life Cycle", by Abbie Goldberg, an assistant professor of psychology at Clark University in Worcester, Mass.


I applaud the efforts of the National Marriage Project. They are dealing with an issue extremely important to our society.

To say "that growing up with two, happily married parents is the best arrangement for children, and for adults too.” does not mean that other forms of parenting situations are bad. Wilcox simply lays out the ideal.

Dear NMP,

I am delighted to know you exsist! My parents are still married and although 'not happily' for a number of years (dad was an alcoholic) they stuck together. At the age of 47 now, their tenacity has been a pillar of strength for me as I face situations of diverse kinds. Where it would be easier to 'bail out' rather than 'work it through' the example they set in their marriage has given me the 'stick-to-it-ness' that it takes to reconcile differences in all sorts of relationships, which are after all the fabric of society. I am a public middle school teacher (and happily married by the way) and am woven into my immediate society in a complex way, especially with parents and youth. Your mission to undergird this fundamental aspect of society is monumental!!!!

Financial stress is one of the leading causes of divorce. With more couples currently experiencing this stress, increasing taxes, whether they be property, gas, electricity, or water and sewer will only contribute to this. So yes Local, taking on an unnecessary $250 million water infrastructure debt, leading to $200 a month water bills for the average family, could contribute to unhappy marriages.

Maybe you are one of the lucky ones Local, and money doesn't matter, but for many couples in our community who are raising children --every penny counts.

Money matters, and in this economy I'll bet there are more unhappy couples than before the recession.

Psychologist, have you ever read the Hook before? If so, you'd realize that I am not the one who is fixated.

Linda Fletcher: are you kidding me???? You are grateful that your parents sacrificed their entire lives and happiness FOR YOU???? How extremely selfish of you!!!!!!!

Linda Fletcher, you give a moving example of the value of two parents staying together. I don't see anywhere in your comments that they sacrificed their entire lives and happiness for you, only that they were not always "happy".

A child doesn't have any choice about the situation they are brought into. I don't think that parents should always stay together under any circumstances, but too often they are on the other end of the spectrum. They make destructive choices seeking some ephemeral goal of being "happy". Its the parents that are often selfish under those circumstances. No matter how we try to spin it, divorce leaves a lasting mark on a child.

Most importantly (and since this IS The Hook, after all), what is the NMP's position on our local water supply plans and can anything here be blamed on Tom Frederick?

Relax Married. Was merely pointing out (by way of sarcasm) that virtually every story in the Hook these days seems to be about the freaking water issue - even the stories that have very little to do with water. Thanks for proving my point.

If water rates rise to build the new dam-pipeline, it wouldn't be because of Tom Frederick, we'll have the board: Mike Gaffney, Gary O'Connell, Bob Tucker, Gary Fern, Judy Mueller, Holly Edwards, and Sally Thomas to thank for that. Oh and all those rate setters on the Albemarle Service Authority that don't pay water rates as well, and say " this will be painful" but build at any cost. Anyone who doesn't think this will negatively impact low income families is crazy. Do you disagree Local that money matters in a marriage ?

I don't think that studying, understanding, or bolstering the institution of marriage, rejects other forms of relationships. I don't even think you have to elevate the language and label it as an ideal, in order to justify the worth of the institution or project.

I think that a relationship that involves commitment offers stability and exemplifies many of the values that Linda mentioned. Friendships can survive and thrive and be committed, without legal/religious bonds, but we have different expectations of marital bonds, and most (note that I did not say all) people will select those bonds if they are available. It is a testament to our desire for the significance of that formal commitment, that at least some gay relationships which are not afforded that legal/religious bond, still demand them.

I am a product of divorce as a child, have been a step-child, and am a step-mother. I can say that my children who have not lived through divorce, have had a more stable path to follow in their lives, but that is anecdotal evidence, at best, since there are whole families who can provide little stability for the children within them. What I can say is that the energy which relationships take is amplified exponentially when they are complicated by divorce. It behooves us to examine how to help couples communicate in relationships before marriage, and during. Perhaps then divorce would be less needed.

A study of marriage can be a blessing in disguise to those who do not have access to marriage, yet, in terms of documenting the personal and societal benefits gained, for the sake of further lobbying efforts.

Linda Fletcher, I am glad your parents were able to raise you and your siblings without damage. My ex mother-in-law made the choice to stay in a bad marriage because of the effects she saw from her own parents' divorce. She wanted to protect her children, and it literally killed her at an early age when she took her own life. All three of her children divorced at least once. Her sons sought wives who, like their mother, would let their husbands be king of the household, regardless of his despotism. My own parents were a less extreme example of the same. I am glad every day that the despot in my household dumped me, and I worry every day about protecting my kids from those toxic effects. Divorce is MUCH better for some families.

I really liked Linda's take on her parents staying together.Perhaps they took their commitment to each other (symbolized in marriage vows)seriously and worked at times to keep their marriage (&family)together.This is what marriage is. If you think its always wonderful then you are probably too immature to marry.Life happens all around us and it isn't always the best. Sometimes it is but not always. Part of the beauty of a long and successful (notice I didn't say happy)marriage is the history you end up having with that one special person.That my friends is beautiful!I personally have been with my husband 30 years (we got together when I was 19)and in that time we've both grown and changed.We've certainly had our share of rough patches some pretty nasty, but we've managed to get through them and enjoyed so much good and funny stuff too.I have a tendancy to ramble so I'll close with this; as with so many things in life I may not always like my husband, but I always love him. :)

you really can't blame marriage for a suicide.a person who will do that (not just attempted ; a cry foe help)has more problems than a rotten even abusive marriage.

I agree Marie, every situation is different and there is no one right solution for the good of the children. My step children survived a nasty divorce ( no mediation at that time) and now have long term excellent marriages and their own kids. They are far happier and well adjusted them many adult children I know, of their age, who came from non-divorced parents.

Sarcasm or not, looks to me Local, that you're the one who can't let go of the water issue.

If two happily married parents are good for kids, why not three or four? Or, ultimately, what is really the cause of the damage alleged here that comes with divorce or the absence of a bio-parent? It seems to me that what's good for kids comes down to adequate emotional and material resources being available to them.

Does Mr. Emery believe that kids need feminine and masculine role models within their immediate household and, therefore, oppose gay marriage?

See there. I knew if we looked hard enough we could find a way to blame everything (even the divorce rate) on Tom Frederick. Get a rope...

The article says:"All this promotion of happy marriage has come with some controversy. Another group, the Brooklyn-based Alternatives to Marriage Project, has spoken out against the now UVA-based group for allegedly ignoring the needs of those who can’t marry due to legal or moral reasons."

You might be able to fix the legal ones but the "moral" ones are not legal ones and should not be dealt with through legal means ie: public schools advocating the gay agenda under the disguise of tolerance.

There is nothing wrong with teaching tolerance and acceptance of the alternative lifestyles out there which include homosexuals. There is something wrong with the government telling somone that they must accept as "normal" people of the same sex cohabitating when their religion teaches them otherwise. Society will solve these issues without government interference or intervention.

Separation of church and state etc...