Monday, June 05, 2006

Are men more interested in marriage and family?

For years, we’ve heard young Christian women complain about a lack of Christian men interested in marriage and family. News reports bemoan men who won’t commit. Occasionally stories slip through about marriage-minded men who are rebuffed by women who aren’t ready to settle down, but typically, we hear the opposite.

A recent USA Today story turns conventional wisdom on its head and shows that single men may actually desire family more than women.

The article is based on a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study that asked more than 12,000 men and women ages 15 to 44 about sex, living together, marriage, divorce and parenting. USA Today describes the study as providing “the government's first comprehensive glimpse into the male psyche.”

It includes surprising stats, such as the following:
  • To the statement "It is better to get married than go through life single," 66% of men agreed, compared with 51% of women.
  • To the statement "It is more important for a man to spend a lot of time with his family than be successful at his career," 76% of men and 72% of women agreed.
  • 55% of men and 46% of women intend to have a child.

I’m curious what this breakdown looks like within the Christian community. Research has shown that faith is a factor in making men more open to marriage and family—and yet many of our readers say that can’t find those men in their churches.

What do you think about this study?


At 4:00 PM, Blogger Mike Theemling said...

Interesting, but it's important to look at the entire report. I glanced it over (it's 246 pages long and covers a lot of topics, not just attitudes of men to have a family) and highlighted some of the other findings:

- No difference is seen in intent for future children among men and women who currently have no children, with 77 percent of both genders intending to have a child at some time in the future. However, the data suggest that among those with one or more children, men 15-44 years of age are more likely to intend another child than are women.

- While the percentages themselves vary by gender, similar patterns are seen by gender. Those who intend to have a(nother) child are more likely to be younger, never married, and with higher levels of education all factors that tend to be associated with not yet having had a child.

- For men who said that religion is “very important in their daily lives,” 74 percent agree or strongly agree that “It is better to get married than go through life being single” compared with 57 percent of men who said that religion is not important in their daily lives. For women these percentages are 57 and 39, respectively.

- Overall, 31 percent of men’s first marriages had dissolved by the time of the interview 19 percent within 5 years and 27 percent within 10 years.

- Younger ages at first marriage are associated with higher cumulative percentages of dissolved marriages 16 percent of men who first married before they were 20 years old had their marriage dissolve within the first year of marriage compared with 3 percent of men who married at 26 years or over. Looking at marriages that dissolved within 10 years, these percentages rise to 50 for men who married under 20 years of age and 17 for those who married at 26 years or over.

There were generally 4 big factors (in no specific order) which contributed to "positives" (i.e. less cohabitation, less out-of-wedlock births, divorce, etc)

- Education level
- Race
- Importance of his religion
- Whether or not the father was living with the family

And finally the one big positive statement of the study:

- The majority of men (94 percent) and women (94 percent) 15-44 years of age strongly agreed or agreed with the statement, “The rewards of being a parent are worth it despite the cost and work it takes.” Among fathers, 98 percent strongly agreed or agreed with the statement, as did 97 percent of mothers

At 4:23 PM, Blogger Mike Theemling said...

Now, to answer Steve's question of why many of our (female) readers say they can't find those men in their churches.

I have a few theories about this:

- Men don't initiate (for whatever reason. No desire to have a serious relationship, too scared, etc.)
- When they do, women are either too picky (for whatever reason. I'm not a woman so I dare not speculate) or don't see the need to "hurry" things up. This tends to be true with the more attractive women.
- Men are also too picky (mostly obsessed with appearance). Combine this one with the one prior and you see why you don't see as many dating/courting couples in single groups.
- Community (friends, family, church) is largely absent in the entire process.

I think the bottom line at least in the church community and in this generation of young adult singles is that there is a big disconnect between what we SAY we want and what we actually DO.

For example, guys may say they want a wife/mother who can share life with them but honestly they often just want to do their own thing like when they were single and have the benefits of a family without taking on any of the responsibilities. As a result, women tend to get "stuck" with all the things he doesn't want to do like changing diapers and really listening to her (and no, while watching TV doesn't count). Also physical appearance needs no explanation. Media has reinforced unrealistic standards.

Likewise, girls may say that they don't care much about appearance or the like as long as they can provide and be committed to his family but when someone comes around who doesn't look like Mel Gibson or ride a motorcycle (meaning is a rather "boring" individual) or doesn't meet whatever chick-flick standard is in their minds they think they don't want to be "tied down" to this one guy in a June Cleaver existence.

At least, that's my theory.

At 6:01 PM, Blogger Tidy Bowl said...

I sure hope this is true! Because in my experience, Christian men are either unwilling to commit, incredibly immature, not very Christ-like, or some combination of those. Other Christian women (most of them, at least) understand my dilemma and why I am 23 and unmarried. However, many married Christian men pressure me to get married ASAP. And single Christian men... well, I'm beginning to wonder if they exist, because around here, they're busy avoiding church, and I'm not willing to get "picked up" in a bar or a similar secular scene.

At 8:10 AM, Blogger God's Girls Today said...

My single friends and I love to muse the thought of why there are so many wonderful Christian women we know who are single and why there are few to no wonderful Christian guys around. I do believe they exist, just not in any of the circles I have been in over the past 22 years in three different states. Plenty of nice guys. Plenty of decent guys. But no guys of noble character.

I am very picky. I am proud of that fact. Looks are secondary (although from experience I firmly believe in chemistry- some sort of physical attraction). I am looking for a true man. I've met lots of boys. I've met lots of guys and even a few dudes. But the men I've met can be counted on just a few fingers.

I am holding out because I want something better than the average Christian marriage. In 15 years, I don't want to be ok together; I want to know then with the same fury that I know when I say yes to his proposal, all of the reasons why I will count it an honor to be his wife.

So I am picky. And I am very single. But until I find a man with character that reflects the power of the cross in His life, in every area of his life, I will remain a picky single for God's glory.


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