Can Government Rescue Marriages?
By Dr Scott M Stanley & Dr Howard J Markman
There is a trend sweeping the country to make changes in legal codes to
strengthen and stabilize marriages. There are two key thrusts emerging in state
legislatures: the first involves changes in laws that would make it harder for
couples to divorce; the second involves efforts to encourage or mandate couples
to participate in premarital counseling.
It is hardly debatable that many of society's ills can be traced to the
continuing high rates of marital distress and divorce. While divorce rates have
fallen from the all time high in 1979, couples marrying for the first time today
still have a 40-50 percent chance of divorce. Further, the links between poorly
handled marital conflict and adverse psychological outcomes for adults and
children are very strong--stronger, in fact, than the links between divorce and
such outcomes. Added to these psychological outcomes of marital conflict, there
are increasingly clear sociological effects of family fragmentation, including
increased poverty, crime, and alienation between parents and children.
While strange bedfellows, there is a growing consensus among both liberal and
conservative political and religious leaders that something must be done.
Nevertheless, we believe that some of the trends in legal initiatives represent
hurried solutions that could lead to serious unintended negative consequences.