A Review of Maybe ‘I Do’. By Kevin Andrews.
Connor Court, 2012.
It is rather odd to have to pen a lengthy tome defending marriage and family; but then again, we live in rather odd times. The historical and universal institutions were always assumed, enjoyed and celebrated. But of late they have come under unprecedented attack, so a defence is needed, and Kevin Andrews does that admirably here.
Anyone following the social science data of the past half century knows the tremendous value marriage has on couples, on societies, and on children. There is such a mountain of research now on the tremendous goods of heterosexual marriage that it is a full-time job just to keep up with it all. But that is just what Andrews has done here.
With nearly 1600 footnotes in a book nearly 600 pages long, this is a great compendium of what the data is telling us about ideal family structure, the significance of heterosexual marriage, and the way we can ensure the optimal wellbeing of our children.
As he notes, “The tragedy of the retreat from marriage is not the billions of dollars it costs each year: it is the personal and emotional trauma which research increasingly indicates affects many children, even into their adulthood; and the consequent diminution of health, educational opportunities, and well-being, including the stability of relationships of children whose parents divorced.”
The first of his four main sections does just this: it examines the wealth of data we have on the overwhelming importance of marriage for all concerned. Again, those who have been following this research will not discover much new information here, but it is nice to have it so well packaged together like this.
He summarises this massive amount of data this way: “Over four decades of social science research across western nations confirms one clear and unambiguous conclusion: A healthy marriage is the best source of physical and mental health, emotional stability, and prosperity for adults and children. It is also the best bet for attaining happiness and fulfilment.”
The second part of the book looks at how the retreat from marriage occurred, and what are some of the factors leading to the weakening and undermining of this institution. Plenty of variables feature here, including an overemphasis on individualism, a culture of rights, increasing materialism, changing labor force participation, social and legislative changes, and a harmful divorce culture.
Popular culture’s negative views on marriage, along with emphasis on career and consumerism have also led to the avoidance of marriage. After looking at the various causes, he quotes Jonathan Sacks who rightly said: “The fact that we have deconstructed the family – morally, psychologically, economically, politically – is the single most fateful cultural development of our times.”
Part three of this volume looks at recent changes in marriage patterns, and especially examines the rise in cohabitation, and the fundamental differences between it and marriage. In Australia about four out of five couples cohabit before marriage. The problems with cohabitation are many:
-Cohabiting couples are less likely to stay together.
-Cohabiting couples are more likely to have extra affairs.
-Cohabiting couples offer less stability for children.
-Marriages following cohabitation are 50 per cent more likely to break up.
-Marriages following cohabitation report less happiness and compatibility.
The final part of this book asks how we can rebuild the culture of marriage, and also addresses public policy options. What can be done to strengthen marriage both individually and socially? What policies might be put in place to support and maintain marriage, and deter those forces working against marriage?
He examines the ominous demographic changes taking place around the world, with falling birthrates having a huge impact on so many areas of modern life. “The most significant trend affecting families is the dramatic decline in the birthrates in most of the world, resulting in below-replacement fertility levels and the aging of the population. Family policies, in the absence of families, is a contradiction.”
The West is experiencing a major birth dearth. Russian population, for example, is likely to fall from 143 million to just 107 million by 2050. Pronatalist inducements are being tried in various nations to turn these worrying trends around. Singapore for example utilised them after they had a disastrous experiment with antinatalist policies. But it is easier to decrease birthrates than increase them.
Andrews looks at specific concepts to restore a pro-family and pro-marriage culture. These include Family Impact Statements to accompany all legislative proposals. Along with this is the Marriage and Family Policy Grid which asks four questions of any measure:
-Does it enhance marriage?
-Does it enhance the ability of parents to have children?
-Does it enhance good parenting skills and parental involvement with children?
-Does it enhance ongoing involvement of parents with children following separation?
Other items include more emphasis on pre-marital education, publicly promoting the value of marriage, making the taxation system more family-friendly, and offering more flexibility in work and family arrangements. He admits that getting serious about all this is not always easy, and few countries have a serious national family policy in place.
He argues that two key principles should underpin any family policy: it should protect and foster marriage and healthy families; and wherever possible, it should support, encourage and utilise family and community organisations, rather than supplant them.
His concluding remarks are right on the money: “How we preserve marriage – against the cultural and economic pressures that threaten to overwhelm it – as the foundation of healthy family life, the protective institution for children, the crucible of the free market, and the essential condition for democracy, will determine the health and longevity of the critical institutions of the western liberal experiment. The future of individuals, families, communities and nations is tied to the outcome.”
Quite so. Marriage and family are under heavy fire at the moment, yet they offer so many tremendous benefits to individuals, to children and to societies. We must not allow these invaluable institutions to be undermined and destroyed. They deserve protection, endorsement and celebration. This book helps us to do just that.
11 Replies to “A Review of Maybe ‘I Do’. By Kevin Andrews.”
Dear Bill, The four questions as part of Family Impact Statements seem similar to risk assessments I have learned about in work place health and safety courses. The Family First Party has proposed among other things Family Impact Statements, but I have not seen how they want to structure them. Thank you for an interesting article.
Some things currently needed are relationship coaching (which focuses on creating a good marriage relationship, rather than focusing on problems) for couples in crisis and for those who are not in crisis, good marriage enrichment courses.
Louise Le Mottee
What would happen when people in marriages stay committed? When marriages last a life time, when marriages are honoured and obeyed?
Just get the basics right the first time and watch the rest of life and society be right!
A big asking? Its worth a Big try.
Thanks Bill for drawing this to my attention. I hope Kevin Andrews gets maximum attention with this. I have one thing planned. Christian radio. But if you have some promotional ideas that would be good. Let us know. It’s a pity it costs thirty-five dollars [$35.00]. At that price it makes strategic connections even more important. It would be nice to think Malcolm Turnbull would read it. Now there’s a prayer point.
When a couple is willing to make sacrifices, each for the other, including self-denial at times, if they wish to limit the size of their family; when there is family prayer each day and regular worship, at the very least on Sundays; when children are taught to respect their parents and contribute to family work and activities — then things will turn around I’m sure — but I’m not holding my breath!
Readers are no doubt aware of the saying “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink”. I heard a speaker who disagreed with the saying and said it all depended on how much salt you put in its oats!
As Christians we are called to be the salt of the earth. This applies whether we are married or single. Numerous times throughout the bible the church is referred to as the bride of Christ and is used as an example of what Christ’s love for us should look like. When the world sees marriage as it was intended people should be thirsty for what they see. Sadly our representation of marriage as Jesus intended is often short of the mark.
We owe it to our Lord to have our marriages functioning in the way Christ intended as an example to others, so that those who observe us become thirsty and want what they see in our lives.
I can highly recommend “The Marriage Course” to all married couples. This is a 7 week program designed to build and strengthen marriages. It is run through numerous churches. For further information you can visit the website http://relationshipcentral.org.au/marriage/index.php
It was Fred Nile who first proposed the introduction of a family impact statement more than 10 years ago.
If they had applied this to the baby bonus, they would have come up with a policy that would see it only been given to married women. Paying women to have babies in any incident does not help the women, does not help the children and does not help society.
What a breath of fresh air to have these issues assessed not from a financial aspect, but from the damage done to souls aspect. I always cringe when I hear people who support their arguments via financial statistics. Sure, if that helps to get the world on board, but we must remember that this is only the lowest common denominator. As Christians we must work hard to lift the standard of common denominators.
I`ve heard The Hon. Kevin Andrews speak at the ACL National conferences a couple of times, he`s an articulate, easy to listen to and wonderful minded man.
I applaud him for what I`ve heard about the book.
I wonder if he addresses the issue of government funding parents to outsource parenting to Long Day Care Centres, and now withdrawing the dependent spouse rebate for any family earning over a less than average wage, that, is those who take the responsibility in doing their own parenting.
Thanks Bill, and thanks to Kevin Andrews for putting the effort into writing it… I’m looking forward to reading this.
…and the website for it is: http://maybeido.com/
I have just finished reading the book “maybe ‘I do’ modern marriage & the pursuit of happiness” by Kevin Andrews the Federal Minister for Social Services and a Catholic, also I understand Andrews is an Adjunct Lecturer in Politics and in Marriage Education in the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family in Melbourne. Andrews in his book wrote on page 142 “religions recognise and bless marriage, but they did not invent it.” Please correct me if I have read this wrong, is Andrews quoting someone else? I have sent Kevin a copy of Casey Whitakers book “Have You Not Read? free copy to download at http://www.WiseReaction.org also worth reading is Dr Leslie McFall’s two part book on Marriage & Remarriage also free to download.