How marriage can help children to flourish

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
Are they healthier and happier?

In general, research shows that children do best in life when they grow up with both their biological parents, and this is most likely when those parents are married (there will be a future article looking at how marriage increases the likelihood of couples remaining together).  The children’s  behaviour is better, they have fewer emotional problems, they do better at school and have better relationships with their parents and friends.

These advantages continue into adulthood with better long-term education, higher income, greater life satisfaction, higher self-esteem, better physical health, and less likelihood of divorce themselves.

Notice how many different areas of life are affected. The benefits of their parents’ marriage involve all aspects of a child’s well-being – mind, body and soul, relationships within and outside the family, their own life and that of future generations.

How do we explain these effects?

Research papers tend to emphasise the financial (e.g. greater household income) and practical benefits (e.g. the efficiency of living in one family unit) of marriage. This reminds us that the design of marriage is full of God’s wisdom. Here we discover the truth of God’s promise through the Psalmist,

Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in his ways!’

Psalm 128:1

The financial and practical benefits to children should not be overlooked but there is another important aspect – the importance of the parents’ marriage bond. The result is that:

    1. Their status and value are affirmed. The love received by the child from his or her parents is bound up in the love shared between them. This love builds self-worth and gives them confidence to grow up knowing they are cared for and appreciated. Even when a marriage is going through difficult times – and no marriage is perfect – in general children do better when parents stay together (though this is unlikely to include those exposed to a violent and hostile family environment).
    2. The stability of marriage provides the right environment for the child to grow up in. It is God’s design that young people are molded and polished by the love and discipline of both parents who teach and model God-honouring behaviour and attitudes. The committed, long-term nature of marriage provides a consistent and trusted environment in which this process can occur.

Many young people want to get married. Many want to have children when they get married. Looking ahead, married couples often wonder how best to help their children to prosper in this difficult world. They have already done the most important thing – committing to each other in marriage! By keeping their promises to each other, they not only benefit themselves but also pass on benefits to their children.

Further reading:

  1. ‘Children First: Why Family Structure and Stability Matter for Children’ by AEI-Brookings Working Group on Childhood in the United States
  2. ‘The Consequences of Divorce for Adults and Children – an update’.  Paul Amato. 2012.