THE MARRYING KIND: by David PerrinNews Weekly
Men's attitudes to marriage
, October 23, 2004
A recent United States study* highlights the type of young men who are more likely to marry and why they want to marry.
Whilst US research is not always applicable to "Aussie blokes", in this case the research should be quite helpful to us as there is no comparable research that has been carried out in Australia.
The study of men aged 25 to 34 showed that men from traditional two-parent families, with positive relationships to their natural father, from religiously observant families, and who were living with their biological parents at age 15, are most likely to be married or to seek marriage.
Women ready to settle down and have children need to distinguish between men who are searching for a wife and those searching for a sex-partner.
Men favourable to marriage see marriage and children as a transformative event that is part of adult masculinity and a graduation from being a single boy.
The transformation benefits them in a number of ways. Married men work harder, lead more productive lives, enjoy better health, sex and family interaction, and possess more wealth, as well as becoming more responsible and involved fathers.
Wives provide emotional support, monitor their husband's health, provide stable domestic routines and, for wage-earning wives, enjoy increased income and assets.
For employers, married men have stronger workforce attachment, leading to reduced job absenteeism, quit rates and sick days.
The marrying kind of men are looking for the perfect soul-mate who will fulfil their emotional, sexual and spiritual desires.
According to the US study, these men fit into two categories: men ready to marry tomorrow and men ready to marry some day.
The latter group of men are marrying later than previous generations, as they feel the need to complete their education and establish a career before making a lifetime commitment.
Significantly, most of these men are married by their mid-thirties. However, they are not constrained by a ticking biological clock.Cohabitation
Cohabitation is increasingly seen as a stepping-stone to marriage.
Traditional aspirations, such as a stay-at-home wife or a wife with similar religious views, have receded in importance for such men.
They have positive attitudes towards women and sometimes have unrealistic expectations as to what their future soul-mate should look like.
Significantly the survey showed that there are about one in five men who have hostile attitudes to marriage, women and children. These men are more likely to come from non-traditional and non-religiously observant families.
These men are more likely to hang out in pubs, abuse alcohol or drugs, or to engage in illegal activities.
They have a short-term, high-risk, "live-for-the-moment" outlook of high-spending, low-saving, carefree and self-indulgent lives.
In their sexual behaviour, these men are still "playing" as juveniles not ready for the commitment and responsibility of the adult world.
These men regard casual relationships as attractive alternatives to marriage.
The US survey also looked at what teenagers thought of marriage and children. As these are the next generation of adult men their views are important.
There has been a sharp increase in teenage boys who accept unwed child-bearing, and a slight decrease in teenage boys that accept that living together before marriage is a good idea.
This US study confirms some Australian research about marrying men and is useful in helping us to understand some young men's reluctance in making a commitment and also their attitudes to marriage, women and families.
Research undertaken by the Australian Family Association has identified 30 per cent of men of marriageable age who are simply unable to marry and form families due to the lack of a full-time job, education, skills and income to marry.
Their lack of income and resources deprives them of the choice of being able to marry, even if they are well disposed to the idea.
With the growing number of fragile families in Australia this US study should warn us to expect a growing group of men from non-traditional background who have a reluctance to marry or even enter into any form of partnering.
We can expect an increasing proportion of single-parent families, de facto relationships and accepted singleness.
David Perrin is national president of the Australian Family Association
* Barbara Dafoe Whitehead and David Popenoe, The Marrying Kind: Which Men Marry and Why
(Rutger's, U.S: The State of Our Unions, The National Marriage Project, 2004.)