Posts Tagged ‘marriage’

One thing bugs the shit out of me is the conventional wisdom that two-person opposite-sex biological parents represent the best environment for raising children. David Brooks raised the old chestnut again in his wacky piece about the decline in opportunities for the lower classes:

A long series of cultural, economic and social trends have merged to create this sad state of affairs. Traditional social norms were abandoned, meaning more children are born out of wedlock. Their single parents simply have less time and resources to prepare them for a more competitive world.

First, this may be true and it may not be. Research has been inconclusive, and difficult to extricate from simple socioeconomic trends. Additionally, some research has shown that high-conflict marriages are as bad if not worse than single-parent households, and that stability may be a better indicator than number of parents.

Second, even assuming the argument is correct and two parents are better than one, why wouldn’t three parents or four parents be better than two? As California prepares to address this with possible legislation to open the door to more greater-than-two-parent households, it’s not surprising that the usual suspects have crawled out to voice their opposition:

“This bill is a Trojan horse for the same-sex-marriage agenda,” Peter Sprigg, a senior fellow at the Family Research Council, said.

“Advocates for same-sex marriage are very interested in separating parentage and marriage from biological parentage, because that’s the one thing same-sex couples can never achieve,” he added.

I mean, sure, but part of the core conservative argument against same-sex marriage is that two-biological-parent households are better than two-nonbiological-parent households. Why wouldn’t the introduction of more adults, including the biological parents not be better? In fact, we have been doing this for some time, with villages, tribes, and relatives often taking on the responsibility of childcare. Like, oh, I don’t know, this family.

If stability is the goal, why not include as many stable adults as we can find?

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William Saletan atSlate always has these big pseudo-scientific questions that he thinks are deeply thought-provoking but are actually pretty schmeh.

For example, he has a long-standing (and probably wrong) hypothesis about race-linked intelligence. (I have previously noted the goofiness of this “scientific” discovery here.)

Now Slate has two stories about a study finding that children of gay parents at a time when being gay and having children was/is maligned can be stressful and difficult. That’s pretty understandable. Saletan’s take is probably more line with mine in that he thinks it still proves gay marriage is a good outcome (two parents, loving household, financial support, etc.). Still, he takes the study as methodologically sound (some criticisms here).

That said, let’s presume, for the sake of argument, that the study is right and two same-sex parents are actually in fact worse for the child than two opposite-parent biological parents. So what? Lots of children are raised in households without two opposite-sex biological parents; couldn’t a two-parent same-sex household still be better than, say, single parents? Couldn’t some alternate arrangement (let’s say, oh I don’t know, three parents in a household, or a two-parent biological household with grandparents in the home to provide childcare) provide even better results than the two-parent biological household? Should the government or society encourage such behaviors? Maybe, but maybe not. Attacking the “worst” child-rearing environments probably yields the most returns for society; certainly two-parent same-sex households are better than, say, institutional housing or constantly shifting foster care. Since there is high demand for same-sex households to have children, maybe we should be encouraging lots of adoption by any combination of two-parent households.

My point is that much like any presumed difference in intelligence between races (which, as I’ve noted, is probably wrong on its face anyways), the difference between a two-parent same-sex financially-supported household and a two-parent opposite-sex financially-supported household is probably so marginal that the policy implications are nil compared to the differences between a two-parent household and a no-parent household, or a two-parent household and an institutional care facility, or the difference between a poor family and a rich family.

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The number of long-lasting marriages has gone up, and fewer people are getting divorced.

So, yeah, gay marriage is clearly destroying the institution of marriage.

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A new Pew study finds that the gender gap in Asian-American interracial marriages is growing. (It is also growing in black relationships in the other direction. There’s plenty of commentary on that subject, but you can start here.) Asian-American females marry men of another race at almost double the rate (~40%) as Asian-American men. This trend has actually increased in past years, despite increased immigration, which lowers overall intermarriage rates (since many immigrants are already married, and 0-generation immigrants are much more likely to remain within an immigrant community).

Interracial marriage rates by ethnicity and gender (Pew Research Center, 2010)

These statistics do have particular relevance for me, an Asian-American man in a relationship with a white woman. (Potato, this is your shout-out!) Sometimes when we’re out, we like to play a game, in which we count the number of Asian-male/white-female couples, and compare it to the number of Asian-female/white-male couples we see. The ratio is usually even more lopsided than the Pew study indicates. (We also play a game where we wonder why attractiveness in Asian-female/white-male couples disproportionately favors the Asian female, but that game is only tangential to the question at hand.)

Why is this? I have a few theories, based on nothing except my own hunches, and it’s worth noting that “Asian-American” covers a wide variety of ethnic groups including Indian, Pakistani, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Filipino, Indonesian, Iranian, Iraqi, Arab, etc. Thus, any generalizations will be just that — generalized. My theories after the break! (more…)

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One of the funny things about history is how quickly we forget what the history was. We often assume that the way we do things is the way we have always done them, but this is generally far from the truth. As in my previous post about prisons in America, we assume that prisons have been around since forever (see: depictions of prisons pre-Enlightenment in films), but in fact, the penal system as we understand it is quite new.

Which brings me to one of my favorite terms: “traditional marriage.” With the Prop 8 upholding by the California Supreme Court and another possible marriage equality bill on the way in New Hampshire, we have been subjected to another round of “traditional marriage”-ites.

But of course, traditional marriage is very, uh, untraditional. Traditional marriage has included everything from polygamy to forced remarriage to required dowries to arranged marriage. No marital system in recent years, it would seem, has lasted a very long time before it has been upended by another. Victorian marriages were beset with accepted mistresses and courtesans, while the idealized 1950s nuclear family only lasted a short period before being uprooted by the sexual revolution. “Traditional” all depends on which tradition you’re talking about.

That doesn’t mean that same-sex marriage is traditional; it just means that almost no marriage today is traditional. Our historical viewpoint is skewed by our inability to see the world at a truly historical perspective; we always see the previous world through our own.

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