Does Marriage Decline Mean Society’s Demise?

Written by Krsnanandini Devi Dasi & Tariq Saleem Ziyad


The verdict is in; the diagnosis given.  Marriage is in trouble in America.  Marriages everywhere are ailing or failing to take place.  The remedy adopted by too many troubled couples is divorce.   The trouble we’re in also applies to those who cohabit, break up and then cohabit again (instead of accepting a committed marriage).  In these cases, though, the remedy is worse than the ailment. In other words, the solution generally brings more headaches than the problem.  And it’s increasingly a societal problem; that means that when a marriage fails, particularly when children are involved, and when marriage fails to take place (when people cohabit or participate in “hook-ups” that result in pregnancy), society pays and pays and pays — through taxes to fund more social services, higher rates of juvenile delinquency, increased crime, etc., etc.,

So, can we save marriage? Yes we can.  First, let’s review some sound evidence that we need to make the effort.

About 63% of all youth who commit suicide come from fatherless homes.  Of youth that are incarcerated, 80% come from homes where fathers are absent, as do 90% of homeless and runaway children and 71% of high school dropouts.  In America, approximately 20, 000, 000 children live in single parent homes.   What we do know is that when fathers are engaged in the first two years of their children’s lives, they stay involved for the rest of it.  And research shows that fathers are more likely to be engaged in the beginning, or the first two years, if they are married to the child’s mother.

In the early 20th century, a social scientist, anthropologist Joseph Unwin from the University of Cambridge, introduced some phenomenal research about the necessity and importance of “monogamous” marriages.  Originally, he had set out to prove that marriage was obsolete, unnecessary and superfluous to progressive society.  He also theorized that marriage may be doing the world more harm than good.  Initially, he proposed that marriage might be a relic from the past that society would do better without because other ways people unite might be better.  To prove his theory, he examined 80 civilizations including Babylon, Greece, and Rome and identified the characteristics of these civilizations when they flourished and when each had their downfall.

Imagine Mr. Unwin’s chagrin when after seven years of intense research, he uncovered the undeniable reality that not only was marriage important and necessary, but where the culture of marriage was strong, there were concomitant levels of creative energy, advanced education and the search for deeper meanings and connectivity in life!  He discovered a powerful connection between those cultures in which the majority married, confining sexuality to marriage, to great and progressive civilizations.  And, he found that when societies allowed sexual freedom the cultures were not as progressive, rather they declined as rapidly as “sexual freedom” grew.  Thus, he opined that when the majority of people engaged in and supported marriage, (monogamous marriage based on fidelity), as a fundamental and accepted institution, civilizations flourished.  When they did not, civilizations deteriorated within three generations!

Commenting on Unwin’s in-depth and thorough analysis, author Reb Bradley in Whistleblower magazine, January 2009, said: “Studying the decline and fall of eighty world empires, Unwin determined that the loss of self-restraint, culminating in unlimited sexual expression, precipitated each empire’s demise. Either the individuals in those societies became personally ruled by their passions, resulting in lawlessness and social chaos, or in their hedonism they lost the moral fiber necessary to successfully protect themselves militarily. America on both fronts has great reason for concern.” (See references below)

Joseph Unwin went so far as to state, “If we know what sexual regulation a society has adopted, we can prophesy the pattern of its culture.”  Mr. Unwin is not alone in his findings.  We find many other sociologists concurring with him and giving the same dire predictions about the decline of civilizations when those civilizations leave behind the institution of marriage. For example, in the late 1950’s, Harvard sociologist Pitirim Sorokin also analyzed cultures from antiquity to the 20th century, covering the global community, and he found that virtually all political revolutions that brought about societal collapse were preceded by a sexual revolution in which marriage and family were devalued.

Reasonable people will therefore appreciate that it is wise to invest in saving and encouraging healthy marriages, especially when children are a part of the scenario.   The following points show more proof that with the demise of marriage comes the downfall of our civilization:

•     According to a recent study conducted by the Pew Research Center, 52 percent of Millennials, those young adults from 18-29 years old, cited being a good parent as “one of the most important things in life.” Only 30 percent thought the same about having a successful marriage—a glaring 22 percent gap among the 18-to-29-year-old set.  Today’s young adults, people of the Millennial Generation (18-29 yrs old) are more anxious to become parents than spouses.

•     When this same age group, called Generation X back in 1997, was questioned about marriage and parenting, 42 percent placed a high value on parenthood and 35 percent said marriage was important. We can see that as time moves on, young adults are putting more emphasis on raising a family, and less on getting married.  (How did these two very interconnected things become so disconnected?)

•     Marriage is rapidly becoming the province of the educated strata of society.  If you take a quick survey, you will find that people with higher education are more likely to get married, particularly when they want to have children.  The Council on Contemporary Families ( has released stats that tell us that modern college-educated women are more likely than other women to be married (or still married) at age 40, are less likely to divorce, and tend to describe their marriages as “happy”, in comparison with other women.  This holds true no matter what the economic status or income of the couple. In other words, the more educated a person is, the more likely he or she will choose to marry, especially to raise children.  We want to see that everyone, college educated or not, understands the many benefits and the necessity of marriage.

•     Cohabitation, which is like the ghost of marriage, does not carry with it the same commitment, the same connecting of extended families, the same benefits or the same responsibility as marriage. The scary thing is that far too many couples are deciding to cohabit rather than marry.  Unwin and others see this trend as a further sign of society’s decline.

•     Divorce is considered “normal”.  People are no longer surprised or disappointed when couples get divorced.  The idea of disposable marriage doesn’t rankle the average person.  How many couples do you know that have been married 10, 15, 20, 25, or 30 years?  How many children do you know that are being raised in homes without one parent due to divorce or the fact that their parents were never married in the first place?

Final questions:  After reading this blog, what do you think?  Is our society headed the same way as the Roman empire, the Babylonians and other once powerful ancient cultures because of how we are minimizing the importance of marriage? This is all food for thought and we request all thoughtful men and women to chew on this thought and stay tuned for Part II, where we will talk about some effective and promising solutions to the marriage crisis and the dangerous divorce phenomenon.

Unwin, Joseph Daniel, Ph.D., Sexual Regulations and Cultural Behavior, address given March 27, 1935, to Medical Section of the British Psychological Society and published originally by Oxford University Press. Reprint: (Trona, California: Frank M. Darrow, 1969).
What Makes for a Healthy Society? by Reb Bradley, Whistleblower magazine, January 2009, page 24.
Sorokin, Pitirim. The American Sex Revolution. (Boston: Porter Sargent Publishers, 1956.)

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