- Hardcover: 300 pages
- Publisher: Regnery Publishing; First Printing edition (March 1, 1996)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0895264641
- ISBN-13: 978-0895264640
- Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 12 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,144,921 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Abolition of Marriage: How We Destroy Lasting Love Hardcover – March 1, 1996
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From the Back Cover
Artfully weaving poignant true-life accounts with sobering research findings, Gallagher shows how legal, cultural, and economic factors have combined to create a "post-marital culture" that punishes commitment to spouse and children, and rewards a selfishness and irresponsibility. The divorce rate: higher than ever before - and still climbing. Why? Tax laws that discourage parents from giving children time and attention that previous generations took for granted. A legal system that favors philandering husbands - and wives. The myth of the "good divorce". The truth about its devastating impact on children. Do couples who co-habit first really have better marriages, fewer divorces? And how many live-in fiances actually reach the altar? Research findings: how marital instability impacts the economy...crime...educational achievement...illegitimacy.... How divorce contributes to middle-class "downward mobility", trapping mothers and children in poverty and hopelessness. Child abusers: not typically, fathers. How they prey on marital collapse. How popular culture trivializes - even ridicules - marriage and its sacrifices, and glamorizes socially corrosive alternatives. Gallagher delivers a jolting wake-up call to political leaders and opinion-makers on both the left and the right, whom she excoriates for ignoring the crisis. Yet she remains hopeful. Just as we brought the problem on ourselves, she argues, so can we solve it. And she points the way with concrete, workable proposals for restoring the foundations of American marriage, and rediscovering the adventure of married love.
About the Author
Maggie Gallagher is an affiliate scholar at the Institute for American Values.
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As Gallagher points out, we have chosen the happiness of adults over that of their children. And make no mistake, children are damaged by divorce or single parenting.
Some have emotional problems that will last throughout their lives, especially in their ability form lasting relationships.
Children raised by a divorced or single parents are much, much more likely to become alcoholics, drug abusers, and high school dropouts.
They are more likely to become criminals - 80% of all the men in prison grew up in divorced or single parent homes.
They are much more likely to suffer depression, and much, much more likely to commit suicide.
They tend to do poorly in school, especially boys.
Some recent research I came across regarding boys and single parenting:
-----J Fam Psychol. 2001 Jun "Problem behaviors were more frequent for children from unmarried families than from married families and were more frequent for boys than for girls from cohabiting families."
-----Psychol Addict Behav. 2000 Jun "Findings indicated that boys and those from single-parent families engaged in the highest rates of problem behavior."
-----J Popul Econ. 1992 Single parent "exacerbates these effects on the probability of entering college by ages 18-20 years, especially for boys. Thus, while remarriage increases income and reduces time pressures compared to single-parent family living, the presence of a stepfather appears to complicate the college entrance decision."
-----Morrison, Donna "Divorce had no effect upon reading scores for girls but had a negative effect for boys.
-----Dr. Paul Ramchandani of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Oxford observed, "Children tended to have greater behavioral problems when their fathers were more remote or interacted less with them."
"The association tended to be stronger for boys than for girls," Ramchandani noted, "suggesting that perhaps boys are more susceptible to the influence of their father from a very early age."
-----From China Zhang J, Araki S, Sato H, Yokoyama K. "boys from divorced families suffered from neurosis, loneliness, impulsiveness, rebellious tendencies and untruthfulness"
-----From Norway by Alfstad KÅ, Clench-Aas J, Van Roy B, Mowinckel P, Gjerstad L, Lossius MI. "Living in a single parent home put boys at risk for developing psychiatric symptoms."
All of the effects of being raised in a single parent or divorced home have been shown to be exacerbated in boys.
The facts are clear, and horrifying. And yet, because we have changed the rules for divorce, any time one of the partners wants out, the divorce is granted. Irregardless of the harm done to the children involved. This is nothing less than insane. Our future is out children, after all.
Ten years after a divorce "two-thirds of all children of divorce have virtually no contact with their father" (p 55).
Remarriage or living with a boyfriend is no cure. Statistically, children living with a stepparent do even worse than a child raised by a mother alone. Boyfriends and stepfathers are "four times more likely than biological fathers to sexually abuse the children in their care" (p 36). Stepfathers rarely will pay for a college education for another man's child.
Even education is no protector for the child of a single or divorced mother. "A baby born to a college educated unwed mother is far more likely to die than a baby born to a married high school dropout" (42).
Time for a change. Now.
"The Abolition of Marriage" is a virtual pentathlete of a book, excelling on so many different levels. In terms of quality in non-fiction writing, as far as I am concerned, the line starts behind Maggie Gallagher. She is equally pre-eminent in her ability to marshal facts from seemingly diverse areas of inquiry and integrate them to arrive at truths that seem obvious only after she has demonstrated them to us. This is sheer brilliance, folks.
Moreover, Gallagher evidently cares deeply about society and people and the serious harm both have suffered from the inestimable erosion matrimony has suffered in recent decades. Following in the steps of her previous book, Enemies of Eros, she names the Greek concept of "eros," of irrational, exuberant love for one's immediate family (spouse and children) as a key to our welfare in all areas of life. Paradoxically, marriage is more useful and attractive the more demanding and restrictive it becomes. Spouses with children are the pillars of society, paying taxes, providing a foundation that can help sustain a community. The absence of the traditional family is correspondingly highly correlated with a community's decline; if the percentage of married couples with children in a neighborhood drops below a critical tipping point of about fifteen percent, trouble is likely to follow. Furthermore, married couples are much more likely to be both willing and able to make the sort of superlative sacrifices--a second mortgage to pay for college for their kids--that can never be legislated. Thus the sharp downfall of matrimony has led to declines in our safety, our economic well-being, and our sense of community, and to increases in teenage motherhood. Most importantly of all, children are not as happy. And children who have lost faith in marriage become taxpaying adults who then pass on the lessons (deliberately or otherwise) to their children.
The author shows us how marriage attaches a father to his children, creating a distinctly male role for him in a family. Our commonly applied tools for measuring what children lose through divorce fail to capture the whole nature or extent of their loss. We deconstruct marriage into what we imagine are its component parts, then claim that it is the parts (money, a father and a mother in their lives in some fashion) that are essential for children. We're just kidding ourselves.
Gallagher explodes the convenient myth that what is good for parents must be good for kids, noting that kids in second marriages do no better than in single-parent home, and should a redivorce happen, they do far worse. She goes on to demolish a second shibboleth, the notion that the average marriage is happier today than in the past. Currently, in the author's memorable phrase, we are experiencing "erotic stagflation," the paradoxical combination of higher divorce rates and unhappier marriages. Moreover, divorce is only good for kids in those very rare cases where a high conflict marriage becomes a low conflict divorce. The "blended family," Gallagher memorably suggests, might more aptly be called the "lumpy family," as the web of allegiances among the new family members almost never smoothens out.
"The Abolition of Marriage" covers much broader ground that simply the decline of matrimony. It brings us face to face with a culture that not only fails to adequately praise and reward self-sacrifice or commitment to higher ideals such as lifelong partnership with a spouse, but even implies that those who do practice them are dupes or fools for not following their own self-interest. Gallagher calls the therapeutic community and, yes, lawyers to task for their roles in facilitating the decline of marriage. And for assisting the loss of the grand concept of putting aside one's own petty needs and striving for the greater good. The author doesn't oppose ending truly bad marriages. She simply believes, rightly I think, that few marriages are truly "bad;" she shows us that most "good" marriages that end up enduring a lifetime had very difficult patches when they seemed fully as "bad" as those that end in divorce. The difference? Commitment, and hanging in there, and belief in ideals that go beyond one or even two people's individual existences.
Some of the facts Gallagher provides are rarely heard. Marital status is a more important predictor of infant mortality than age of the mother's education or even whether the baby was "wanted." A baby born to a college educated single mother is far more likely to die than a child of married high school dropouts. Even more strikingly, the single best predictor of a community's level of violence is the proportion of single-parent families. Remarkably, once family status is controlled for, neither race nor income has any effect on a crime rate in a community. Fatherlessness and crime are linked not only due to a boy's individual lack of a dad but also, more profoundly, due to his growing up in a neighborhood in which marriage is no longer a norm.
One of Gallagher's most inspired touches is her detailed discussion of the collapse of marriage in black communities, followed by the degeneration of other African-American institutions, and her demonstration that today white communities are poised to follow the same path. Her insights into both of the great twin "taboos" of discussions about love--money and sex roles--are also wonderful. In two further strokes of brilliance, she shows that spouses have become, in our disposable society, yet another "consumption item," and later suggests that the same is even true of children.
As a lawyer and an activist, it was very sobering to learn so much about both professions from the author, who is neither! The author discusses the one-two punch to the old marriage ethic that resulted from the legal declaration that sex was private (followed by the invalidation of laws restricting sexual behavior and/or promoting marriage) and the courts' declaration that sex was a public health issue (thereby justifying state intrusion into private morality). She shows how courts are gradually defining marriage out of existence, as the non-married gradually acquire most of the same rights and entitlements that spouses have. Later, "no-fault" divorce effectively made marriage illegal!
One final awesome fact about this book: Almost uniquely in my experience in such works, she provides a number of concrete, detailed, painful, yet seemingly workable suggestions as to how to get there from here. Make no mistake, these will require sacrifice: End unilateral divorce by imposing a five- to seven-year waiting period for contested no-fault divorces (as do many European jurisdictions). Restrict domestic partnership legislation to homosexuals who cannot marry. Expand opportunities for covenant marriage. End welfare for teenage mothers. Permit school districts to send pregnant girls to special schools. Restore single-sex public schools. Triple the tax exemption for dependents and thereby restore the tax protection lost by families.
Gallagher does have her very occasional lapses, as with her blissful ignorance of the serious flaws in Lenore Weitzman's work on divorce, and her suggestion that married men have a "reasonable certainty" that their wife's children are in fact their own. Any men's rights issues appearing here come in by chance. She does question why a man should have to bear the burden of a woman's choice to bear a child. But she also repeatedly stresses that married men tend to work harder and to make sacrifices single men simply will not make, without once considering the point of view of these generous souls. And yet, in all fairness, this ties in with her book's thesis: Our therapeutic society needs to get over it and do what works and get on with life. And what works is marriage.
Gallagher's skill at lovely formulations and insightful combinations of heretofore discrete facts is simply unequalled. She loves marriage and implores us as a society and as individuals to again declare ourselves willing to take the risk of the ultimate declaration of love for another. Crossing our fingers behind our back just doesn't work. It's time, Gallagher implores, for us to stop talking about marriage like bohemians used to talk about free love. If you only read one book this year, make it "The Abolition of Marriage." Its insights are more compelling now than when they were written.