How to Save Marriage From Hitting the Rocks
Marriage has had a good press lately. More people are marrying and more people are staying married. This is welcome news. I have recently met a number of community groups that promote marriage in schools, colleges and generally in society, an encouraging and hopeful experience for me. But of course while I welcome this greater interest in marriage, both in promoting it and defending it, it is impossible to do so unless we understand what marriage and the family are.
The Cambridge Group for the History of Population and Social Structure carried out a long-term, cross-cultural study of the family in many different countries some years ago. It discovered that the father, the mother and the children are at the heart of family structure, even in cultures that have traditions of extended families. This is the proper use of the term “nuclear”. A nucleus is the centre, the heart, the core of a cell or an atom. It is not what it is taken to mean these days: isolated from everything else.
This research was backed up later by Martin Richards’s work at the Cambridge Centre for Family Research, which showed how important it is for children to have both parents for their upbringing, and the consequences for them of divorce. Even in situations of conflict (provided they are not too extreme) children prefer their parents to stay together. These centres were building on the discipline known as the sociology of the family, which began in the 1940s and considered the family in the sense I have just described as “natural” or “normative”. This family, expressed as it is in different contexts, is ubiquitous, found in many different cultures and over the course of history.