Coming out of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, you might have missed news last week of a significant study concerning the current state of the American Family.
“The Divided State of Our Unions: Family Formation in (Post) Covid America” confirms much of what we’ve been tracking here at Focus on the Family regarding the rapidly evolving dynamics surrounding attitudes toward marriage and children.
A crisis almost never leaves anyone the same, so a fair question to ask is just how has the global pandemic impacted our relationships?
The news is both good and bad.
According to this new report, which comes to us from the Institute for Family Studies, the American Enterprise and the Wheatley Foundation, interest in marriage is up by two percent across the general population and up by eight percent for those who regularly attend religious services.
In other words – faith matters.
Most of us becomes the product of the people we spend time with, so it makes sense that being part of a church community would influence our feelings towards marriage and family. A good church celebrates and encourages family formation because the Bible has a lot to say about these special relationships – specifically that God invented and blessed both institutions.
Sadly, the study also reveals a declining interest in children for both the religious and non-religious – though far more for those who claim no faith at all.
According to the data, “religious” people reported a 1% decline in interest of having children compared to an 11% decline for the non-religious. Politically speaking, Republicans were far more interested in having children than Democrats and Independents.
What’s behind these troubling trends?
It would seem to me that selfishness sits at the core. Getting married, having children and providing for a family is a lot of work. It’s even inconvenient. It’s a lot “easier” to do your own thing and focus on your own desires.
Of course, time and wisdom suggest benefits associated with such independence are often short-sighted – and short-lived. The “carefree” lifestyle may pay a quick dividend, but over the long haul, studies show people regret not investing in their marriage or having children. It’s a timeless joke that you should have children so you’ll have someone to care for you when you’re old – but companionship has its advantages at every stage and season of life, especially in the later years.
I have a female colleague who discusses the sting of riding a Ferris wheel alone. At an amusement park one day she watched couples and parents happily going around and around, talking and laughing. My co-worker desires to be married. But there she was without someone that day with which to enjoy the ride and the view – both literally and metaphorically.
I recognize that God does call some people to the single life, whether for a season or for a lifetime. But it’s also true that we were made for relationship and the trends we’re seeing regarding a growing disinterest in marriage and relationship are cause for concern.
As someone blessed with a wonderful wife and two great sons, my heart aches for those who desperately want a spouse and children but have not yet realized that dream. Please join me in praying for these individuals – as well as praying the Lord would impress upon the rising generation the benefits and blessings of marriage and family.