A roundup of recent news and reports on marriage and family.

No Reversal in Decline of Marriage

The recent decline in the number of Americans getting married shows no signs of reversing, according to analysis by the Pew Research Center.

Barely half of adults (51%) were married in 2011, according to ACS data, compared with 72% in 1960. Marriage increasingly is being replaced by cohabitation, single-person households and other adult living arrangements. The decrease in the number of newly married adults was apparent among nearly all education levels and ages. The only exception was among adults age 65 and older, where the number of newlyweds were roughly similar in 2011 (89,000) and 2008 (91,000).

U.S. Birth Rate Falls to a Record Low

In a related finding, Pew Research also reports the U.S. birth rate dipped in 2011 to the lowest ever recorded, led by a plunge in births to immigrant women since the onset of the Great Recession.

The overall U.S. birth rate, which is the annual number of births per 1,000 women in the prime childbearing ages of 15 to 44, declined 8% from 2007 to 2010. The birth rate for U.S.-born women decreased 6% during these years, but the birth rate for foreign-born women plunged 14%—-more than it had declined over the entire 1990-2007 period. The birth rate for Mexican immigrant women fell even more, by 23%.

The Four Family Cultures in America

A three-year study of the “Culture of American Families” by the University of Virginia’s Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture identifies four types of family cultures that are molding the next generation of Americans: the Faithful, the Engaged Progressives, the Detached, and the American Dreamers.

The Faithful (20 percent of American parents) adhere to a divine and timeless morality, handed down through Christianity, Judaism or Islam, giving them a strong sense of right and wrong.  Understanding human nature as “basically sinful” and seeing moral decline in the larger society,  including in the public schools, the Faithful seek to defend and multiply the traditional social and moral order by creating it within their homes and instilling it in their children, with support from their church community. Raising “children whose lives reflect God’s purpose” is a more important parenting goal than their children’s eventual happiness or career success. 

To that end, they talk to their children daily about matters of faith, routinely conduct family devotions, attend church weekly and pause to say a prayer before family meals.

They have a strong sense of parental efficacy, believing that parents are more influential in their children’s lives than peer influences. Their family sizes are larger than average.

A number of the Faithful attitudes line up with stereotypes of conservative Christians. For example, they use spanking, strongly disapprove of gay marriage or sex outside marriage, and the Faithful women embrace the role of homemaker. But several attitudes depart from stereotypes. The Faithful want their families to be warm and emotionally supportive and think men should put their family before their career just as women should.

Supreme Court to decide Fri. on same-sex marriage

The nine justices of the U.S. Supreme Court will meet behind closed doors today to decide whether to take up several cases that could lead to the legalization of gay marriage in all 50 states, notes the Baptist Press.

The public won’t find out what they decided for several days—as early as Monday—but Friday’s meeting is significant enough that both sides in the cultural debate are guessing what will happen. If the court takes up the cases, it could end up being the “Roe v. Wade” of gay marriage.

At issue are two laws: a federal law known as the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and a California constitutional amendment known as Proposition 8.

Important New Family-Structure Study

The journal Demography has published a reexamination of a 2010 study that found no significant differences between same-sex and opposite-sex parenting outcomes, reports William C. Duncan at National Review Online.

The 2010 study had excluded children who were not biologically related to the head of household and who were not in the same home for at least five years. This reduced “the sample size by more than one-half.” The 2012 study explains that putting the children who had been in unstable households (lived at the same address less than five years) back into the sample increases the sample “by more than 80 percent.” This fact alone seems important. The new study’s conclusion is that “children being raised by same-sex couples are 35 percent less likely to make normal progress through school.”