About 2.5 million American couples are expected to marry this
A good share of them - 225,000 - will take their vows this month,
as large numbers of young people graduate from college.
Ironically, most brides and grooms who've taken college courses
about the family will marry in spite of what they've been taught in
the textbooks used in those courses.
I recently studied 20 college texts on family for a report by the
Institute for American Values Council on Families. All of the books
focused on negative aspects of marriage and child-rearing. Not one
provides much reason why anyone should want to marry. A few of the
books have a distinctly antimarriage animus, and the others fail to
discuss the large body of research indicating the psychological and
health benefits of marriage, or mention it only briefly and
'Proof' marriage harms
Several of the books claim, erroneously, that there is proof that
marriage is typically harmful to women.
For instance, one sociology of the family textbook, "Changing
Families," cites a controversial 1972 book by sociologist Jessie
Bernard, and states that Ms. Bernard found "the psychological costs
of marriage were great for women."
Another text, "Sociology of Marriage and the Family," asserts that
"we do know, for instance, that marriage has an adverse effect on
women's mental health."
Yet another text, "Diversity in Families," admits that married
people on average report a much higher level of personal happiness
than unmarried people. But it goes on to cite Ms. Bernard's work -
which was unsupported by sophisticated research - that married women
tend to say they are happy only because they think they should be
happy. The book reports this thesis as fact rather than as the
speculation that it is. And it ignores later, more well-grounded
research that indicates that reports of personal happiness are
equally valid for men and women.
It's hard to imagine a topic more relevant to the needs and
interests of college students than the effects of marriage on
But the books I reviewed devoted on average just over a page each
- out of an average of more than 600 pages per book - to this topic.
Five of the books don't discuss the topic at all, and five others
devote only a sentence to less than a page to it.
Furthermore, almost half of the discussion of the effects of
marriage on personal well-being is of Bernard's discredited thesis
that marriage typically harms women. …